Nice backdrop, or done deal?
Watching the council meeting of Sept. 20th, one could easily see that they’re dead intent on forging ahead with disposing of one-quarter of John Phillips Memorial Park (JPMP, dedicated parkland, owned by Sooke residents) to fill it with two huge parking lots, a huge sound stage, and a monstrosity of a “community hall” with a 300-person banquet hall, offices for four private clubs, concessions, a 50-children daycare, and emergency services centre.
Instead of holding a referendum, required by law, to seek electoral approval, the council found a way around, with the so-called ‘alternative approval process’ (AAP), shifting the weight to those who oppose the project to register their opposition (in a restricted way).
Without widely informing all the residents about the project. Two ads in the Sooke News Mirror and the info on the crowded city website cannot count as wide information. Nonetheless, after counting the votes (less than a hundred short of the needed 10%), the council has announced that “the elector approval has been obtained”. Receiving 0 votes of approval.
So how is that “the process as it stands now allows for much more community input” or “it’s up to the community” (St-Pierre)? Since the council has demonstrated that 7 councillors can do whatever they want (using the AAP), inspite of the opposition of more than 1,000 residents.
The latest questionnaire, offered by the council in winter, had questions about more trees, trails, signage, benches, picnic tables, etc., in the park. There was nothing about huge parking lots and huge buildings with multitude of services. For which the park will be “a nice backdrop” (M. Tait).
The need for “more modern facilities” seem to be lack of air conditioning (three to six days a year with 30 degrees in Sooke), wheelchair access, and parking at the present Community Hall on Shields Rd. So instead of renovating the present facilities (with air conditioning and access easily added), the council decided to turn public parkland into a huge parking lot – two parking lots for the “approved” project on one side of the pond in addition to the two parking lots (121 stalls for the apartment buildings and 35 stalls for the park) on the other side of the pond.
Reducing biodiversity around the pond is not the council’s concern (St-Pierre), but the “deep need for walkable amenities” for people living in the houses around is. But if we can walk to those amenities, why do we need parking for hundreds of cars? Besides, people living around the park can walk to the present amenities (the community hall, daycare, library, shopping and medical centres, etc.) with no problem.
So the parking is for the residents who live farther, and who, at present, have to drive across town for the daycare (Tait), or to Langford for weddings in 300 cars (St-Pierre), blocking and polluting the highway. Sure, let them come and pollute our beautiful park, which will be “a nice backdrop” for drinking, smoking, and yelling crowds!
Nice vision the council has for Sooke, indeed!
Instead, the new community hall with modern facilities can be better placed on district land next to the new library. As to the senior center (planned for that location), senior programs can be easily accommodated both in the new community hall and the new library. As to the proposed day care, it could nicely fit in at the Family and Child Services, which have a big green lot (in addition to the building with “modern facilities”, the council is so concerned with) and ample parking.
WHO says climate change is the biggest threat to human health, so protecting the environment, green spaces (not destroying them) and even increasing them in cities (minister Dicks) is a must. Is the council blind or ignorant of the climate emergency we face?
Additional Notes provided by SPN:
Here’s a map of the proposed modifications, provided by the Sooke Lions:
Here is a page from the District of Sooke that speaks to the community’s perception of the JPMP park and its uses.
Here is the Lion’s “Accurate Perspective” of the proposal.
And lastly, here is the Sept 20th meeting, cued at the public input section of the meeting for your viewing pleasure:
This is the last letter opposed to the proposed changes at JPMP that SPN will consider. Those opposed to these changes have had significant air-time on SPN, though they represent less than 10% of the population per the completed AAP process. The imbalance of this group’s coverage on SPN risks misrepresenting the possible wide range of perspectives that may exist in our community. -Britt/SPN