The following is from Monday’s Regular Council meeting, March 25. Elected officials present: Mayor Maja Tait, and Councillors Jeff Bateman, Al Beddows, Ebony Logins, Megan McMath, Tony St-Pierre.
One of the final items on the agenda was a discussion of the Development Permit PLN01403 Evergreen Mall (target location for a new Tim Hortons which includes a drive through). The development site is the former Royal Bank site on Evergreen Mall at 6660 Sooke Rd, adjacent the BC Liquor Store.
Two big sticking points were passionately discussed. Mayor Maja Tait pushed for a longer continuation of Sooke’s themed “pavers” (the bricked-themed sidewalk) beyond the crosswalk. For her, it was the one visual that would set Evergreen Mall apart from a similar looking theme in Surrey, and it would continue the West Coast theme that Sooke was striving to pursue.
The developer did not that this sidewalk extension could happen, if the District modified their storm management plan requirement. As it is currently written “The storm water management plan is to include the calculations of the entire upstream catchment area [emphasis added] to ensure that the relocated pipe facility is capable of supporting the run-off.” The developer proposed a rephrasing of that section, offering instead a pipe with “equal or greater in flow capacity.” But please, he pleaded, don’t make us go up to Ann Marie, which is the road adjacent to Lot A.
The developer noted that it was their misfortune that the pipes run under their building. Their project has its own storm management plan, which will not even utilize the existing pipes. The existing pipes are fully owned by the District. Were they a few feet over, the developer noted, they wouldn’t even be having this conversation.
Given that the existing pipes were laid in the 1970’s, this single item can have a massive cost attached to it. The developer is concerned about cost creep, and clearly stated that if the project exceeds the amount of money available, the project won’t happen.
Counc. Logins made the point that the only way these infrastructure improvements can happen in any town is through development. Bylaw 404 (Schedule 6, page 51) states the rain water management system must take “into account the existing drainage conditions in the entire watershed in which the development is located, so that for all events up to the predicted 1-in-100 year rainfall event, there is no increase in water levels or rates of erosion at any point in the watershed as a result of the subdivision or the development compared to the pre-existing conditions, prior to the removal of any natural vegetation from the site.” Their role as government was to enforce the bylaws, not propose work-arounds on a case-by-case basis.
After lengthy and detailed engineering matters were discussed, which were clearly out of scope for Council, it was noted that this conversation is best left between staff and the developer, whereupon staff would come to Council with a recommendation to consider. The head of Development Services was not able to attend last night’s meeting.
Other observations were also made.
During public input, one resident expressed dismay at the growing number of chain stores that were represented when one drove through the town. This, he felt, made Sooke indistinguishable from the many other brand-lit towns that dot the Canadian landscape. He urged for Council to develop a strategic plan that favoured more locally-owned businesses, giving a unique west-coast feel to Sooke.
There was some discussion on the urgency of climate change and counter-intuitive concept of having a drive-through in the middle of town. It was noted that there is a CRD-wide anti-idling bylaw that applied within the parameters of Sooke, and also that four electric vehicle charge stations were included in the proposal. Further, the mayor herself brought up the point that while this is in the town’s core, a targeted growth area, the project was replacing a two-story building that housed many local businesses and had extra office spaces, with a single story building that would house less than a handful of businesses.
A total of 13 existing trees will be removed, which would be replaced by 37 trees, Armstrong Red Maples. It was noted that the removing of the epic trees will not go over well in the community, but there was a three-to-one replacement. An in-ground irrigation system will be installed to ensure the vegetation thrives. Evergreen Mall, it was noted, is consistently on top of their landscaping.
Counc. St-Pierre noted that the future of Sooke was probably heavily dependent on tourism. Tim Hortons represents an actual tenant that can be put there. The other alternative is to continue with the slab of nothing that currently exists. He wishes it weren’t a franchise, but this seems to be the only option on the table at this point.
Counc. Beddows was quite happy Tim Hortons was coming to town, saying that it gives local residents another option. He noted that on any given day, a locally-owned coffee shop can be bought out by a chain.
Counc. McMath likes the diversity it brings, and the tax dollars.
Counc. Logins referenced the public’s sentiment against franchises, adding that it was more of a systemic issue than a local issue. She strongly felt that the youth in the community want a Tim Horton’s. While the other location was nice, students wanted to get away from EMCS, and this would provide a great alternative. Sooke is definitely short of youth-friendly gathering places.
Counc. Bateman observed the irony he was faced with. Transition Sooke is looking at ways of localizing economies, and supporting eco-friendly ventures, and here he was, a member of Transition Sooke, about to approve a drive-through.
Mayor Tait advocated for the drive-through, saying there’s room for that in Sooke. Sick people can stay contained in their vehicles. Parents with blissfully sleeping kids in the back seat can go get a coffee at the drive through without having to unbuckle the sleepers. This franchise would also be opened later in the evening, allowing for later gatherings. She also added that this brings in employment opportunities and expands the local eating options.
Counc. Logins moved the motions to accept the development permit (with paver modifications) and enter into a landscape agreement, seconded by Counc. McMath and unanimously supported by Council.
Discussed at the March 25 meeting