Sooke Mayor Maja Tait opened the February 14, 2017 Council meeting with a statement about Lot A, the land initially acquired for the library. If she were to write the headline, she said, it would be “The mayor applauds council for their foresight.” In a nutshell, this is an SPN Takeaway of what she said. More takeaways will be rolled out over the next few days.
Sooke Mayor Maja Tait noted that in-town development for Sooke presents challenges, including parking, drainage, topography, views, and the one access road, Highway 14. She noted that when Sooke was first incorporated, Sooke’s population was in the 8,000’s; today we’re at 13,000. There’s been a 48% growth since incorporation.
At the last election, there was a referendum about having a multi-use facility in town, and the vote was an overwhelming Yes.
Mayor Tait noted that Lot A is a 5.2 acre town-centre piece of land, that was already level, required no building demolition, and came with already-built sidewalks. Council had been eyeing this property for years, she noted, and has put in offers in the past.
On speaking to the library, she noted that technology was negatively impacting the Library, that what once brought people through its doors could now be easily found online. She also noted that Sooke is at the top of the VIRL list because of the rapid growth of Sooke.
According to Tait, Sooke presented five options to VIRL, and none met VIRL criteria.
The previous Council tried to acquire the Mulligans site, and this bid was unsuccessful. They also bid on Lot A (Wadams Way) at that time, and that not successful then either.
“Time is ticking,” Tait said, “we know that.” Council continued to examine options. Even John’s Memorial Park was considered but it was not popular among residents.
Then, Lot A was then purchased. Remediation was estimated at $800,000.
Tait stated that they need more time, and more community feedback. However, VIRL does not have time. If it takes too long, Sooke may not even get a library. The lease on the current library runs out in 2018, and there’s no option to renew.
The library does not belong to Sooke alone, it’s a regional library that extends through, and serves residents from, the Juan de Fuca area. If a building cannot be built on Lot A, then SEAPARC becomes a viable alternative. A better transit inside Sooke could make it more accessible. And, the SEAPARC location would have low-to-no impact on the taxpayer.
If we go to SEAPARC, what happens to Lot A? she asked. And answered: Council has invested in town centre land that could be used for future needs.
She supports every decision made along the way, noting that the path to a new library building was neither clear nor easy.