Mrs. Ellen Lewers read a letter she received from Corporate Officer, District of Sooke, stating that they are currently collecting information on a property owned by her neighbour, along the 5500 block of Sooke Road, across from the Shell station. On Apr 30, Mrs. Lewers met with staff, and nothing since has happened, which was why she sought audience from Council through a delegation.
Mrs. Lewers is specifically asking that Council look into bylaw infractions happening on this lot. That land is zoned rural. It’s permitted use is agricultural. Yet, the actual use of the land is blatantly commercial in nature. Soil was removed without permits, and scrap metal brought in. Previous to this owner, no industrial business had ever been allowed on this land. Allowing a commercial business to happen on rurally zoned land is unfair to other residents who wouldn’t be able to make similar use of their land, and unfair to existing businesses who pay legitimate commercial taxes.
She insisted that Council get staff to do their job and issue fines for all the broken bylaws (an extensive list is provided in her original letter below). Something needs to be done immediately, she pleaded. It’s destroying valuable agricultural lands.
Mrs. Lewers was thanked for her presentation, and Council then moved immediately to the next item, which was the public input portion of this meeting. Diane Bernard, both a resident and a commercial tax payer, expressed her frustration that this type of practice was even allowed to exist. She too was thanked.
It is believed that there may be legal reasons for the non-dialogue. If something goes “in-camera” (aka “behind closed doors”) Council cannot discuss it. The property owner in question was given an intermunicipal business licence (often granted for mobile businesses) when District was under the leadership of CAO Sullivan, and it was revoked shortly thereafter. The business owner had requested a licence so that he could proceed with insurance and move on other subsequent business-related matters. For more information on that fiasco, see:
- 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
Council Delegation Presentation May 28, 2018 [SPN Note: SPN has intentionally stripped out searchable internet details, like the business name and the owner’s name. This has been done to protect the business’s reputation, which is not at issue. If you wish to know the property, drive past the Shell Station on Sooke Rd, and look across the road.] Presented by Ellen Lewers.
Re: Ongoing zoning and other bylaw infractions at 5 5 3 6 Sooke Rd
The presentation as read by Mrs. Ellen Lewers, reads as follows:
I am here to request that council address the historical and ongoing, bylaw infractions at 5 5 3 6 Sooke Rd. The industrial operation that continues to operate daily on this property, is on a piece of property that is designated as Agricultural in Sooke’s OCP, and is zoned RU3, which is the zone dedicated to Small Scale Agriculture, and a zone that has been attached to this property well prior to Sooke’s incorporation in 1999. A zone which besides residential, has permitted uses of agriculture, intensive agriculture, and aquaculture.
The property in question, dates back in use as a farm to 1921, and had related uses as such until around 2006, when the current owner started to make significant changes to the use of the property and the industrial nature of his operation, in which up that that point, had included the erection of a large industrial building, a building that was constructed without a building permit from the DOS.
The property at 5 5 3 6 Sooke Rd as it once was:
Since that time, further buildings have been built, scrap metal brought in and stored on site, RV’s brought in to house renters (with waste water connections that are questionable), 5th wheel trailer units brought in for storage, an auto-body repair and paint shop installed, sales of steel and industrial welding gases, several feet of soil removed without permit, with truckloads of blasted rock hauled in, effectively destroying the agricultural nature of this property. Along with the expanded industrial use and scale of the operation, of course has come longer business hours, more employees, more traffic, more noise and pollution associated with this kind of an operation.
This is a property which abuts ALR property, the Sea to Sea Green Belt, Galloping Goose Park, Ayum Creek Park Reserve, and our ongoing farm operation at 5526 Sooke Rd.
At this moment, I would like to remind council, that this property was bought by [the current owner] in September 2000, almost a year after Sooke incorporated. He bought this property with the current zoning, along with the uses permitted attached to that zoning, none of which have ever allowed an industrial business of this nature to be an allowed use. This means that it is not, and has never been, legal non-conforming, but in fact from day one, has been purely illegal. It is also my understanding that up until 2014, that the property owner was claiming farm status on this property, in what can only be seen as an attempt to avoid paying taxes that reflected the true use of this property.
Of course, this sort of action leads to an unfair tax burden to the balance of Sooke taxpayers, especially those that run their businesses in properly zoned and taxed property. These other law-abiding businesses struggle to comply and deal with financial costs associated to compliance with bylaws and regulations, with costs of engineers, environmental assessments, legal fees, application fees, permit fees, etc., all while business like this one, skirt all the above and compete unfairly in the marketplace, and especially unfairly on local government projects.
The current situation sees this property functioning as a full-time industrial welding shop (including constructing ship hulls), car repair shop, car sales, autobody and car painting, steel and industrial gas sales, outside storage, housing project, and at many points, looks like an automotive wrecking yard, with unsightly storage.
As a result of the extent of this operation, it has impacted our serenity, our enjoyment of house and home, and the resale value of our property. It has resulted in loss of integrity to our property through the removal of fences, which have allowed wildlife such as bears and dear to roam more freely. This has required us to construct new fences that are solid, as to not only keep out wildlife that impact our farm, but to attempt to restrict noise and the unsightly premises next door. Due to recent changes on the property, we are once again faced with having to build more solid fences to try to minimize daily impacts of the operation.
The owner of this property, if unaware prior to 2007 as to the nature of the legality of his operation, certainly became aware after 2007, as the District of Sooke brought in its Business Licencing Bylaw, and the owner was sent a letter requesting a business licence. As such, he applied, but was denied one, as his property was not a legal operation with respect to many bylaws. He has also had several site visits by both past fire chiefs as well as the current chief, and bylaw enforcement. Despite this knowledge, his has continued to expand his operation, seemingly willfully flaunting the District of Sooke and its bylaws and regulations without consequence and with impunity.
At this time, I would like to ask mayor and council, if this person had setup this business in Sunriver, Stoneridge, or Heron View, would you approve such use, or direct staff to ignore the illegal nature of the business?
Why does Council make bylaws?
What is the purpose of said bylaws?
What is the job of a bylaw enforcement officer?
As near as I can tell, the following bylaws are being broken on an ongoing basis, and every person who contravenes a provision of the bylaw, or who consents, allows or permits an act or thing to be done in violation of a provision of the bylaw, commits an offence punishable upon summary conviction and is liable to a fine not exceeding $10,000.
This bylaw may be enforced by means of a ticket in the form prescribed for the purpose of s.264 of the Community Charter or by bylaw notice issued under the Local Government Bylaw Notice Enforcement Act.
Bylaw 600 Zoning (each day the offence continues is a separate offence as well as $10,000 fine on summary conviction) sections:
- 3.2a – $200
- 3.2d – $200
- 3.17c – $200
- 3.24 – $100
- 3.26 – $100
- 3.30 a through c – $100
- 4.3a – $100
- 4.3d – $100
- 4.3e – $100
- 4.3g – $100
- 4.3j 0 $100
- 4.3 m (all)
- Bylaw 480 Sign Bylaw
- 8.24 a, b, c all are which 2x the permit fee and fines for every day of offence. (there are 2 non-compliant signs on this property)
- Bylaw 301 Business License Bylaw (No License 2x application fee of $250.00 and fines for every day of the offence).
As a council, you have a general public duty and duty of care to ensure the bylaws you have enacted are enforced, and this is why you hire a bylaw officer and delegate that authority. As such, failure to do so, expose the district to a liability, including but not limited to negligence. In this case, there are no less than 16 bylaws that are being broken on a daily basis, accruing daily fines of around $2500 per day if they were being enforced. Ignorance of the law can no longer be used as an excuse by council, staff, or by the property owner. It has been over 7 months since the property owner brought his request before council and over 11 years of industrial/illegal use on this property, and there has been no enforcement action taken thus far. I therefore insist, that council instruct staff to do the jobs that they are hired to do, and enforce the bylaws of the District of Sooke on the property at 5 5 3 6 Sooke Rd. immediately and unequivocally.
Richard, Ellen, Derek Lewers
Attendence: Mayor Maja Tait, and Councillors Ebony Logins, Brenda Parkinson, Bev Berger, Kevin Pearson,
Kerrie Reay, Rick Kasper
From the May 28 2018 meeting
- Delegation: Lewers’ family asks the District to stand by their bylaws
- Senior Centre gets support in principle from District of Sooke
- Third reading to rezone ViewPointe Estates fails