What we need to hear
The District of Sooke is developing a new Official Community Plan (OCP). An OCP is the principal municipal planning tool that develops a vision for the future of the Sooke community and establishes a detailed set of policies in a wide range of areas. “Dialog,” the consulting firm writing the next OCP, has been listening to the community since November 2020 and has just issued the document of their consultation. It is entitled “What We Heard.” In short, the majority of the five hundred or so respondents want to maintain the natural beauty of Sooke and push the economic change to benefit the growth of Sooke without destroying the environment and climate of our location.
It seems to this reader, then, that the OCP steering committee has its work cut out. It must provide input to Sooke Council on the OCP that will envision the future of 2030. The sad reality of this “consultation” is that the majority of Sooke residents did not bother to participate.
Dialog and the OCP committee will endeavour to reach more people within the time allowed this spring.
Once the OCP is approved by Council, the District of Sooke (and Councils in the future) will have to use this OCP to guide it, when it votes on issues that pertain to development and economic growth. It will be the responsibility of the residents of Sooke to keep Council on track and following their OCP.
It is far too comfortable for any council to go for the easy money – tax dollars from chain stores and external retail businesses – tax dollars from housing developments, pay parking, and resource extraction– rather than follow the wishes of residents to maintain natural spaces, forests and ecosystems and farmland.
Like it or not, change and development will come to Sooke; and like it or not taxes will increase. If we are to get anywhere close to a zero-carbon footprint by 2030, we must realize these facts.
In perspective, even with an increased gasoline carbon tax, by 2030 we will still pay less for a litre of gas than the UK is currently paying.
This is where it starts getting exciting, however, and Council can steer the development of Sooke, using the tools it has now (policy, by-laws and the OCP) to create incentives for business and service sectors that are in line with the goals of the OCP. It will mean turning down some of the “easy money” at times and it may mean increased taxes to pay for the benefits that natural spaces provide. Saving trees, water, wildlife, and farmland must be done, and changing our attitude toward the land is fundamental if we have any hope of saving our species. The result will be a Sooke that has retained its values and character -one in which local business, service sectors and food production will even out the economic jolts that will continue to visit our world in this ongoing climate crisis.
Chris is a retired university administrator, Chair of Sooke Region Lifelong Learning and a member of Transition Sooke.