Monday’s regular council meeting saw a packed room, with about a quarter of attendees coming from the North Sooke Community Association (NSCA), who wanted to find out what the District was doing to advocate on their behalf regarding a possible realignment of Sooke Rd (BCHwy14).
For the residents who will be directly affected by a possible realignment of Sooke Rd, the secretive extension of planned access to Sooke has been not-so-secretive: members representing the province has been engaged in a series of meeting, they have shown residents draft plans, and surveyors have been on their lands. Residents are currently bracing for possible land appropriation in the near future.
The District, it appears, is pretty much in the dark on this provincial infrastructure matter.
According to Eric Boucher and Maureens Simms, who gave a presentation to Sooke Council on behalf of the NSCA, there is a plan afoot to realign the existing highway to allow for a four-lane, limited access, divided highway between Connie Road and Glintz Lake Road. While the land owners have had multiple hour-long meetings with representatives from the Ministry, they have received no definitive information. A deadline for mid March has been extended to mid-April, and they are still waiting.
An added concern is that homes in that area are well-dependent for water. There is a possibility that wells will be damaged or disappear entirely, in which case representatives have said that they will install new wells that will come with a one-year guarantee. Construction will take upwards to two years.
The NSCA residents were frustrated at the absolute lack of transparency of the process, and the absence of any Sooke representation on the matter. Mayor Maja Tait pointed out that the highway is entirely owned by the province, and that land acquisition matters tend to be kept “in camera” (aka behind closed doors) until the acquisition is finalized.
SPN inquired with the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, and here is their response:
Following the open house last June and the public engagement period, Ministry staff received positive feedback regarding improvements to Highway 14 – particularly more passing lanes and possible realignments to straighten some of the curvier sections.
The section between Connie Road and Gillespie Road was one of the areas identified for future improvements. As such, the project team developed a concept alignment and then, in January 2019, began engagement with potentially impacted property owners. The property owners have been shown a conceptual realignment, which has not been confirmed and could shift slightly in locations.
The alignment has not been confirmed and funding has not yet been secured for future improvement projects.
On reading the Ministry’s statement, Mr. Boucher took objection with their assertion that they sought and obtained public support. He also added that clearly they did not have the District’s support either.
We take exception to MoTI’s assertion that they have positive public feedback for their proposal. True, under the umbrella of all the other necessary safety improvements there was public support for their overall presentation however the highway realignment (potentially the most impactful of all their proposals) was presented as a very small part of their overall plan. To say they have positive public feedback for the realignment and expansion proposal is an embellishment of the actual results of their survey as published by MoTI in August. Clearly it also does not have the support of Sooke Council. Furthermore, the current concept and their long term vision was not the one they publicly proposed.
At a public information slash open house held last year, the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure did present something like that as a possibility, but they were quick to add at that time that it was an unlikely option.
From a June 2018 Open House, SPN article: “Touched upon ever so briefly was the construction of a new highway. In speaking with a representative from the Ministry, this clearly is a pie-in-the-sky option. The costs alone, given the elevation of the project, are staggering. The cost per kilometer is anywhere from $20 million to $50 million; a 13 kilometer highway could cost half a billion dollars. Don’t hold your breath.”
The North Sooke Community Association, while not opposed to road improvements, do feel that a four-lane divided highway is more than what is needed by this community. They also find it unacceptable that the District is not being directly consulted. NSCA also feels that this four-lane divided highway is not consistent with the Official Community Plan for Sooke. Lastly, with the District of Sooke soon to revamp it’s Master Transportation Plan, the NSCA asked, “How can you be updating the master transportation plan without knowing about what’s happening with this new realignment?”
The NSCA believes something will happen in the next couple of weeks.
Mayor Tait noted that it was challenging for her to respond without any concrete information in front of her. She said she can’t put out a statement in general without any reason for the statement. Boucher, seeing a catch-22, noted that once an announcement is made by the province, it will be a done deal with no more room for consultation. Boucher noted they look to Council as their elected representatives to advocate on their behalf, which is hard to do after all the decisions have already been made.
Councillor Brenda Parkinson stated her opposition to a four-lane highway, though she is open to an alternative route.
“It’s really terrible that the province hasn’t spoken to us,” Parkinson said. She would like to see Council write a letter written to the province, pre-emptively taking a stance.
Councillor McMath noted that Sooke Council was not being secretive. The most they’ve learned was the information put forward from the North Sooke Community Association. The province hasn’t shared anything.
Councillor Jeff Bateman shared the frustration, and echoed the mayor’s sentiment that once they can “lay their eyeballs on an actual plan” they can actually respond.
Councillor Tony St-Pierre noted that they are actually there to advocate for the citizenry, but they don’t seem to actually have a seat at that particular table. He was startled by how fast this is going, and added his voice to the growing sentiment that Sooke doesn’t need a four-lane highway. Considering that Council was also discussing a climate crisis, a four-lane highway seems counter productive.
Councillor Ebony Logins agreed with St-Pierre that “something fishy was going on.” She noted that AVICC is happening this weekend, and each elected official can separately hand him their letter. (Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities [AVICC] is the longest established area association under the umbrella of the Union of BC Municipalities [UBCM]). Logins is concerned about the wells. She would consider a water extension grant application. She added that Mayor Tait has been a strong advocate for our roads, who writes letters on each accident. Tait will fight for Sooke, Logins noted.
Councillor Al Beddows said the main message should be that Sooke needs to be at the table during these discussions.
Councillor Parkinson made a motion requesting that the Sooke mayor seek a meeting with Horgan, saying that they do want to see a widening of the road, and that while an alternate route should exist, Sooke does not want a divided highway. This was seconded by St-Pierre, and ultimately passed by Council.
Water services should be extended to North Sooke, and a letter should also be written.
Regular Council Meeting @ 7:00 PM in Council Chambers (2225 Otter Point Road), Monday, April 8, 2019.
Present: Mayor Maja Tait and Councillors Jeff Bateman, Al Beddows, Ebony Logins, Megan McMath, Brenda Parkinson, and Tony St-Pierre.
Also discussed at Monday’s meeting:
- RCMP stats for Sooke presented to council
- Sooke declares climate emergency
- Sooke Council approves four cannabis retail zones
- Mayor opens meeting with a statement of frustration on media coverage, rumours
- Is Sooke Rd to be realigned, with divided four lane highway? District in the dark
- Monday’s council meeting agenda: Climate Emergency, Cannabis, and more
Addendum: Delegation presentation notes from Eric Boucher
NSCA PRESENTATION TO SOOKE DISTRICT COUNCIL 08 April
Good evening your Worship and Council.
I am Eric Boucher and reside at xxxx Connie Rd and with me is Maureen Simms.
Our purpose for appearing before Council this evening is to:
- update you on our understanding of the new proposed Hwy 14 project that MoTI is about to get underway in Sooke;
- to state some of our concerns related to this project; and
- to request effective leadership action by Council on behalf of our community.
This presentation builds on previous information we provided you and requests we made to council on 24 September and 14 January. I believe you were also provided a copy of our letter to our MLA, The Premier which outlines some of our concerns.
I’d like to acknowledge other members of our delegation present tonight and ask them to raise their hands.
OVER TO MAUREEN
Good evening. I am Maureen Simms and I reside at xxxx Sooke Rd at the intersection with Glinz Lake Rd. Our story is pretty similar to approximately 27 other property owners in our neighbourhood.
In the early January we received a letter from MOTI advising us that they would be carrying out work in our area connected to planning, designing, or carrying out investigations related to Hwy 14 Improvements.
On January 24, MoTI staff met with us at our home, to discuss the proposed Improvements and possible effects this could have on our property.
We were shown an aerial photograph of the existing highway with lines drawn from Glinz to Connie with the proposed changes.
These changes include the re- alignment of Glinz and Polymede roads, the straightening of the highway from Glinz to Connie …running behind the 17 Mile Pub.
It was explained this was Phase 1 of the project and was chosen as first due to the high accident area it is in.
Phase 2 is Connie Road, East to the existing four lane and
Phase 3 is Glinz Road, West to Sooke.
We’ve been told that the new road will be a 4 lane divided highway, with a barrier in the centre, and there will be limited driveway access. We understand there also will be U-turn sites at either end with one near Impala Rd and another near Manzer Rd so that people blocked from turning left out of their driveway will be able to turn around to get to town.
We were assured we’d be compensated in various forms for our loss of land, property, wells and inconvenience.
They said this was the first of many meetings and they would get back to us in March. That date has now been extended to mid-April and we’ve been left hanging out on a limb since then.
We’ve been clear from the get-go that we are fully supportive to improvements to Hwy 14 to make it safer and that’s how MoTI is selling this.
HOWEVER a 4-lane, limited access, divided Hwy is far in excess of what is required for safety.
Public reports keep saying this is a “proposal” and hasn’t been “approved” yet however MoTI staff seems quite convinced there’s no doubt it’s going to happen.
In summary, our major concerns are:
- It’s unacceptable that you aren’t more directly engaged in this plan for our community. So much for provincial partnerships for stronger communities.
- There is an unacceptable lack of public disclosure about this project.
- There is a lack of respect for the public consultation process. What we have experienced doesn’t come close to meeting the community standard.
In September I listened to you direct staff to contact MoTI to find out what was planned.
More than a month ago some of your staff met with MoTI and were shown the plan. We don’t know what your staff reported to you however nothing we’ve told you tonight should be new information.
If this project is Phase 1 of a much larger plan then you MUST be involved right now. You should be very concerned that this project is NOT consistent with the OCP.
Sooke District is investing in a Community Master Transportation Plan and Hwy 14 is the backbone of the road infrastructure in the community. HOW can you have a have a community master transportation plan if it doesn’t include Sooke Road?
If this project DOES get launched IN SPITE of your objections about the process we would like your commitment to work with us to address some of our local concerns including emergency services and water supply.
Sooke has a seat on the Juan de Fuca Water Commission. Council should be working with the province to make a grant application to fund a water line extension concurrent with this project.
We have several other concerns too and we’d welcome an invitation from you or your staff to discuss those concerns in more detail.
Time is now VERY short.
In the STRONGEST POSSIBLE TERMS we are requesting you to get engaged with our MLA’s office and the MoTI staff to get a complete understanding of what is being proposed and get fully engaged on behalf of our community.