All present: Mayor Maja Tait and Councillors Jeff Bateman, Al Beddows, Ebony Logins, Megan McMath, Brenda Parkinson and Tony St-Pierre.
The love-in is over. The good news is there are no clear alliances, and the more good news is that all elected members of Sooke Council appear to be bringing their individual points of view to the table. At yesterday’s meeting, the real work clearly began. This council meeting was long (it ended at 11:49 p.m.) and laboured, and in many cases decided by a narrow vote.
Their work began with an in-camera meeting at 6:00 p.m., whereupon it was later revealed in their Rise and Report section that wheels have been set in motion to begin the hiring process for a new CAO. At 7:00 p.m., the Regular meeting began with two public hearings, which took them to 8:30. Then, from 8:30 to 11:49 p.m., they waded their way through the rest of the meeting.
How they will vote, nobody knows
With the last council, things became pretty predictable. With four new Councillors at the table (all on a steep learning curve), it’s hard to predict how things will evolve.
There was no unanimous agreement on either of the two public hearings, although both of them passed.
Public hearing for Woodland Rd lot rezoning: The Zoning Amendment Bylaw for 5651 Woodlands Rd, which would allow for a rezoning of a 4.33 acre lot into five strata lots, narrowly passed. During the discussions, Mayor Maja Tait and Councillors Brenda Parkinson and Al Beddows spoke in favour of the application, saying it was supported by the OCP and the applicant was moving forward with the neighbours objections in mind. Councillors Jeff Bateman, Ebony Logins, and St-Pierre opposed it, saying that the neighbours’ preferences for preserving the rural nature of the area should be upheld. By the time that the vote was called, all but Councillor Megan McMath had stated their views. It was her vote in support of the rezoning that carried the motion. So, the motion carried, four in support (Tait, Parkinson, Beddows and McMath) and three opposed (Bateman, Logins and St-Pierre).
Pulbic hearing for Maple Rd lot rezoning: The second public hearing, which looked at a Zoning Amendment Bylaw at 1923 Maple Ave to amend the zoning of a portion of 1923 Maple Avenue from Medium Density Multi Family 2 (RM2) to Small Lot Residential (R3) to create two smaller lots, passed with greater ease although Councillor Parkinson was in opposition (limited parking, with narrow albeit-legal-width fire lane access).
SEAPARC expansion: On the matter of the SEAPARC Expansion Development Permit, while council ultimately voted unanimously in support of the motion, intense discussion about the look-and-feel and public access to the facility took place. More on this to come later.
Access to waterfront: Council also narrowly passed approval for staff to proceed with a general services agreement with Rolling Tides Construction Inc (for $54,995) to complete the Cains Park Staircase project. The OCP has public access to the water front as a priority. According to staff, this is the only semi-usable access to the waterfront that Sooke has in this area. On the flip side, this staircase connects a narrow street (Water Street) with no parking to a small and relatively unknown park. Frequent users are elementary students from Sooke Elementary. Ultimately, the motion passed with support from Mayor Maja Tait and Councillors Ebony Logins, Brenda Parkinson and Tony St-Pierre; Councillors Megan McMath, Al Beddows, and Jeff Bateman were opposed.
Marijuana retail stores in Sooke: Over an hour and a half was dedicated to the presentation and discussion of a report on marijuana stores in Sooke. Ultimately, the motion was made to receive the report and to request further recommendations from Staff. While this can be easily summed up, it is a complex matter: the Province has ordered all marijuana shops closed and Council by way of non-enforcement is allowing businesses to continue to remain open. One of the three businesses complied with the province (the shop formerly known as Medijuana), and the new owner noted he is being punished for doing so, due to lost income coupled with unknown timelines. The complexities of retail versus production, provincial and municipal, and lack of recommended direction resulted in a 75 minute conversation the matter. More on this to follow in a separate article.
Preliminary tree protection bylaw report: The last hot-potato item discussed by Council was a Notice of Motion put forward by Councillor Parkinson last week, for Council to direct staff to prepare a report regarding a Tree Protection Bylaw. Although this passed with relative ease, it was not unanimous. Councillor Beddows was passionately opposed to the bylaw, saying council had more pressing spending priorities, and that individual land owners should have the ultimate right to decide what happens to the trees on their property. Beddows was concerned that costs for tree management would significantly escalate for both the District and the land owner. Councillor Logins laid into those on Council who expressed opposition to the bylaw, heatedly charging her colleagues to get “more educated” on the matter before they spoke to it. This was a standard among most districts Logins argued, and those who didn’t implement one until it was too late (Victoria) were playing catch-up. And, Logins noted, the OCP and climate change both state this as a priority. Mayor Tait made the point that this motion was for a report, not the final passing of a bylaw. The motion passed for a staff report, with Councillor Beddows opposed.
More detailed breakdown of discussions will follow on SPN, but for now, suffice it to say that it was a long almost five-hour publi meeting (preceded by an hour in-camera, aka behind closed doors), and the honeymoon is clearly over.
- Sooke Council approves expansion plan for SEAPARC
- Sooke supports new Inter-Community Business Licence
- Council approves rezoning on 1923 Maple Ave, for two homes
- After heated debate, a tree protection bylaw will be considered by Sooke Council
- Council initiates hiring of CAO contracting an executive search firm
- Sooke appoints more District Council liaison to various committees
- A 4.33 acre Woodlands Rd lot gets approval to rezone to five strata lots