At the October 23, 2017 regular Council meeting, Sooke Council received a report from staff, regarding a recent motion-on-the-fly where Council unanimously agreed to instruct staff to issue a business licence.
In this report, it was noted that Council did not have the authority to issue business licences and that the justification for issuing the business licence (legal non-conforming) did not apply.
“The type of business for which the applicant sought a business licence (fabrication and welding repairs, automotive repairs and sales) has never been a permitted use under the zoning bylaw and therefor is not deemed to be lawfully non-conforming.” To that end, staff has rescinded the business licence.
The public spoke on the matter. During the Public Input section, three local residents spoke to their disappointments which ranged from how Council handled things, to how staff handled things.
Derek Lewers, neighbour of the property in question, was frustrated with the argument that because the four previous councils had done nothing to close down the business in question, so too should this one. He questioned Councillor Rick Kasper’s interpretation of fact versus opinion, and noted Kasper had sat on three of the previous four councils who chose to ignore the violations. Mr. Lewers reminded Council that in 2014, they took action when they closed down another illegally operating business, the Idlemore waste transfer station; he felt that should have set the tone for how they would deal with this application. Mr. Lewers noted the zoning was wrong, and that other local businesses operating on properly zoned lots pay as much as $20,000 a year in property taxes. Other issues include not getting a highway access permit, removing soil, and not having a sign permit. Mr. Lewers called for a public apology from Kasper for grandstanding, making a motion on the fly without having all the facts, and not wanting staff to do due diligence on the matter. Lastly, he berated Council stating there was “no excellence in governance or management in this matter,” and called on them to finally fix this and ensure it doesn’t happen again in the future.[Derek Lewers’ full presentation is available here.]
Diane Bernard, a business owner in Sooke, also expressed disappointment when she saw Council issuing a business licence on the fly, which in turn created disaster. Ms. Bernard observed that the report provided by staff indicates that previous councils had also missed the mark. That needs to be addressed, she said. Businesses in Sooke can still operate without a licence, which raises the question, Why even get one? Bernard said that Council must reset the tone, and get serious about business licences. She believes that all businesses that operate in Sooke need to have a licence, and that a level playing field has to exist for all. Sweetheart deals, she concluded, should not ever come into the mix.
Ellen Lewers, owner of Mrs. Lewers Farmhouse and president of the Sooke Fall Fair, felt that the report left out some significant considerations, including the purchase date of the property which effectively null-and-voids any claims to legal non-conforming. Mrs. Lewers also felt that staff had a role to play at the September 18th meeting, when this motion-on-the-fly was made. Why did staff not tell council that there was a due process to follow, including inter-departmental approvals? Mrs. Lewers said Council was left high and dry on that matter. How can council act in a responsible manner if staff doesn’t share their knowledge? She also asked why a mobile licence was issued. She asked why an earlier rezoning request was not followed through. She also noted that the welding business property backs onto Ayum Creek, which is a salmon bearing creek. Lastly, she echoed the request that Councillor Rick Kasper should make a public apology for “grandstanding,” “making motions on the fly,” and not wanting staff to do due diligence.
When the matter was addressed by Council, discussion was brief.
The report was presented by the Fire Chief who was the Acting CAO at that meeting. He noted that the applicant has been cooperative and will be appealing staff’s decision to rescind his business licence. Mayor Tait appreciated that this matter has caused some angst in the community, and said there is due process. “Council will remain open minded,” Tait said. Councillor Logins appreciated the report and the information. Council then voted to receive the report.
The business owner’s appeal of staff’s decision to rescind his business licence is scheduled for the November 14, 2017 regular council meeting. The mayor reminded everyone that the appeal process exists for the applicant; it’s not to receive public input. Members of the public wishing to speak to the matter can do so during the regular Public Input section at the beginning portion of the meeting.
Present at the October 23 2017 regular Council meeting were Sooke Mayor Maja Tait and Councillors Brenda Parkinson, Bev Berger, Ebony Logins and Kevin Pearson; Councillors Kerrie Reay and Rick Kasper were absent.
- Controversial “house-keeping” bylaw passes Council scrutiny, public hearing in January
- New council cautiously defers text amendment to zoning bylaw, regarding temporary use permits
- Letter: Councillor puts District at risk, admits liability in public meeting
- Closing act: Sooke Council narrowly passes OCP amendment
- Delegation: Derek Lewers presents years of frustration to Sooke Council
- Long-established business with improper zoning & licensing plagues politicians, business owner and neighbours
- Legal matters prevent Sooke council from providing information
- Delegation: Lewers’ family asks the District to stand by their bylaws
- Want to do business with the District? Then a business licence from the District will be required
- Controversial licence rescinded, business owner to appeal
- Council to receive report that chastises Council for granting a business licence
- Delegation reveals Sooke Council divided on being informed
- DELEGATION: Recent bad Council decision tied to the lack of an up-to-date OCP
- District of Sooke grants improper business licence, violates its own zoning
Also from the October 23 2017 Council meeting
- Council expresses discomfort with the usage of the term, “affordable housing”
- Alcohol abuse and domestic violence are crimes to keep an eye on in Sooke
- Controversial licence rescinded, business owner to appeal
- Business blindness needs to stop; request for public apology
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