Elected officials present at the December 10 2018 Regular Council meeting: Mayor Maja Tait, and Councillors Jeff Bateman, Al Beddows, Ebony Logins, Megan McMath, Brenda Parkinson and Tony St-Pierre.
One of the weightier matters discussed at the regular Sooke Council meeting held on December 10 was a zoning change request to accommodate a development at 2445 Otter Point Road expanding the permissible 16 lots to be upped to 27, on a piece of land just north of Helgesen Road.
This new council set an interesting bar: Development is to be curtailed; developers need to offer something back to the community, be it in the way of completed trails and/or playgrounds; and, the proposed contributions to the District’s affordable housing fund need to go up. Waaaay up.
Currently, there are two dwellings on the site, along with two garages. According to the OCP this is in a space where growth is encouraged. If approved, lot sizes would be around 600 m2. Secondary suites are permitted. Parking requirements would be two spaces per single family dwelling and one space per secondary suite. Construction of a six foot high chain link fence along the east property line was initially proposed, to protect the integrity of the adjoining ALR farmlands. Parks (District) and the Agricultural Land Committee (ALC) opposed this option. Instead, a three meter buffer width was established as acceptable. A tree protection plan would also have to be prepared. A storm water management plan has been prepared and accepted by engineering staff. The hammerhead road (see the image below) would have a sidewalk on one side of the road. Fire services found the road acceptable for access. The parcel is in the sewer service area, and there’s no increase on demand expected. The applicant would contribute $27,000 to the Housing Reserve Fund. Read the full report if you’re interested: Zoning Amendment Bylaw No. 723 (600-66), 2018 – 2445 Otter Point Road
At the Public Input section of the meeting, where people can comment on any item on the agenda, a number of neighbours spoke against the rezoning.
Betty Tully has a number of covenants on her property protecting a salmon bearing creek, with a 20 meter zone. The rezoning proposal proposed a two meter protection. Steve Unger who runs an operational farm in the area noted that this is an environmentally sensitive area. On Unger’s farm there are three salmon bearing streams crossing their lot. He urged utmost caution with rezoning this are. Another neighbour, Addison G. said this rezoning was counter to the OCP, which sets out maintaining the “rural character” as important to the residents of Sooke. She also noted that a barrier of mature trees would have to come down. Their removal will result in extra costs for this property owner. She also argued that at its current state, that neighbourhood sustains wildlife harmony. Adding density would only increase wildlife conflict. Mike Rhodes also noted that the jump was substantial, going from two to 27 dwellings. Less is more, he argued, adding that the developer hasn’t offered any amenities. What’s in it for us? Rhodes asked, and concluded, Not a lot. Lastly, Cory Elliot also had strong objections to the density of this development. The configuration of the road, T-shaped, doesn’t seem to give much thought to fire access (the Fire Chief noted that it was sufficient). She pointed out the increased parking and traffic challenges 81 new cars would bring. She noted that this rezoning request would have a great impact on her privacy, her home, and the environment. She was also concerned about the loss of tree protection if the development goes ahead, closing with the observation that there was a lot that will have to be considered.
- Beddows noted that its current zoning allowed for 16 lots. He had concerns, finding that 27 homes in that area is too much. He found the three meter buffer zone unacceptable, and he also noted that 81 cars added to Sooke traffic is too much.
- St-Pierre found that the $1,000 offered was simply not enough. At 10% (a suggested amount proposed in a District Policy, see backgrounder below) in a 27 unit development, that means 2.7 homes would be given over to affordable housing. $27,000 is a massive miss. He added that 27 homes in that area would bring a lot of congestion. The community has to get something back for it, “instead of bending over.” It’s not just these developers, this is a bigger change. St-Pierre said there’s also room to work with developers, and that he was looking for creativity and new options.
- Logins has many concerns. The lot size doesn’t fit the neighbourhood. The added traffic is her biggest concern, simply because there are no sidewalks in any direction, for miles. In this area, people will be walking and cycling. This makes it not acceptable for density at this time. “The three meter buffer is completely unacceptable,” she said. Five meters, as per the ALR, is there for a reason. Anything less, the trees will not survive the development. “This site [rezoning proposal] is a detriment to our community.” We need to prioritize developers that care about this community. The number one concern that she sees in this community is the environment, the trees and the green space.
- Parkinson agrees with the other Councillors. The buffer zone was insufficient. The pathway through the property should be built for Sooke. They bought into the sewer a few years ago, but that was for 20 homes. She agreed with St-Pierre, saying that $1,000 per lot for the affordability housing fund is insufficient. We should be asking for what we need in this town, she said.
- Bateman shared his research and noted that zoning is created for three primary reasons: to create certainty about the future, to avoid negative external effects, and to create adequate infrastructure for new developments. This proposal did not create certainty for the neighbourhood. He also agreed with the earlier statements made by other Councillors, $1,000 for housing is insufficient.
- Tait agrees with the Councillors, saying this feels like the wrong density. Homes with suites in Sooke are expensive, and people are priced out. People who want to up-size can’t afford to, and people who want to downsize can’t afford to. She said that Sooke needs to not just meet best practices but surpass them. She agreed that inter-community mobility (walking, cycling) is an issue, adding that Sooke does need to see more of things built for the town by developers.
Staff agreed that there are gaps in District policies. The housing contribution policy has been vague. This conversation allows staff to push harder. Staff requested that this be post-poned so they can work with developers to incorporate feedback. They are 30 meters away from the creek. This is not spot zoning or leapfrog development. Staff also noted that Council could do one of two things. They could suspend the motion and give the developer a chance to make modifications to their rezoning request before putting it to council again. Or, they could proceed with first reading. If first reading fails, there would be a six month wait period before they can reapply for a different type of zoning.
A representative of the owner said they came to listen and see what council had to say. During the Public Input portion of the meeting and throughout the Council discussion, they were duly taking notes. Many, many notes. They said they would like the opportunity to go back to staff to modify their proposal. The clarified that the lot would not be clearcut, and they would be open to addressing buffer further. The affordable housing number was one they received under direction from staff. They also said they could build a pathway, but they received direction from staff to offer cash in lieu. They genuinely seemed to appreciated the feedback from the public and from council, and their statement to Council was definitely gracious.
Council did put forward first reading, “to Zoning Amendment Bylaw No. 723 (600-66), 2018 to rezone 2445 Otter Point Road from Large Lot Residential (R1) to Medium Lot Residential (R2).” It was unanimously defeated.
This means that the developer must wait six months to re-appear before Council, but as the Mayor noted, they are still welcome to work with staff between now and then.
In 2006, the District created a Housing Reserve Fund Establishment Bylaw 259, that established a housing reserve fund to be used for affordable housing. The funds therein can only be used “for the purposes of fostering affordable housing.”
In their 2007 Affordable Housing & Social Housing Policy, the District set out the requirement for Multi-Family Residential Zones and Commercial Zones, requiring “that 10% (rounded to the nearest whole number) of all multi-family residential developments, where 10 or more dwelling units are being developed, shall be dedicated as affordable housing and sold at cost, or rented to eligible applicants.”
At that time (2006), the housing costs for single family dwellings (houses) hovered around $385,000, condos went for #295,000 and apartments for $72,500. Currently, according to a VREB report, a single family dwelling in Sooke now goes for $478,000; getting anything for under $80,000 is a pipe dream.
In lieu of a 10% contribution towards affordable housing, Council has historically been accepting a $500 per residential unit contribution towards the Housing Reserve Fund, Bylaw No. 259.
Also covered at the December 10 Regular Council meeting:
- Sooke launches participation with an Island-wide business licencing option
- Controversial “house-keeping” bylaw passes Council scrutiny, public hearing in January
- RCMP report gives overview of criminal activity in Sooke, October and year to date
- Presentation to Sooke Council: People living rough could die while governments decide what to do with them
- Acting mayor schedule for 2019
- Meeting dates for regular Council meetings in 2019 scheduled
- West Coast Road sidewalk to Ed McGregor Park to be funded by the sprinkler fund
- New council pushes “What’s in it for Sooke” when it comes to development
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