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Sooke’s Official Community Plan might not get passed before October election, Mayor says

Council to review the draft OCP page by page

By Zoë Ducklow
May 10, 2022
Latest News
News
Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Sooke’s Official Community Plan might not get passed before October election, Mayor says

Council to review the draft OCP page by page

By Zoë Ducklow
May 10, 2022
Coun. Jeff Bateman talks with visitors to the Official Community Plan open house on May 7. Photo: Zoë Ducklow
Coun. Jeff Bateman talks with visitors to the Official Community Plan open house on May 7. Photo: Zoë Ducklow
Latest News
News
Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Sooke’s Official Community Plan might not get passed before October election, Mayor says

Council to review the draft OCP page by page

By Zoë Ducklow
May 10, 2022
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Sooke’s Official Community Plan might not get passed before October election, Mayor says
Coun. Jeff Bateman talks with visitors to the Official Community Plan open house on May 7. Photo: Zoë Ducklow

Sooke’s Official Community Plan update is in draft mode, and might not be ready for council’s approval before the October municipal election, Mayor Maja Tait said.

"We need time to tangle out what the implications are of all these proposed policies." Tait wants to know what the proposed Official Community Plan (OCP) requires of residents.

"Let's say someone wants to rebuild their deck. Can they rebuild it, or are they now required to get an environmental assessment done by an approved person? What are we hoping to achieve by that?"

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If the process is too onerous, there’s a risk people will end up doing things without a permit. That probably leads to bylaw enforcement, "which is punitive. That doesn't build community," she said.

"Most people agreed there are a lot of excellent pieces in here, but there’s a lot of confusion. We’re all reading the same document and interpreting it differently. There’s a lot that needs clarity," Tait said. Getting that clarity, and making sure Sooke residents have had fair opportunity to comment, takes time.

At next week’s committee of the whole meeting, council plans to review the draft OCP page by page. Tait hopes they can share the feedback each of them has heard from constituents.

"It’s getting clarity and good answers back on the various pieces we’ve heard, taking time to review what members of the public have said, what staff answer, and then decide: has it satisfied us? We need to put in the due care and time to listen to members of the community," she said.

That might mean more consultation in a format that isn’t online or in a crowded space. Only having digital options is a barrier to some residents, and more than a few people were uncomfortable coming to the open house Sooke hosted on May 7. It was a congested experience with some 400 visitors streaming into the Community Hall’s small dining room, peering over each others’ shoulders to read the display boards and vote ‘agree’ or ‘disagree’ with little round stickers staff handed out.

Plus, it’s unlikely council will get through the whole document in three hours in their May 16 meeting, and meeting time is running out. August is intentionally kept meeting-free so people can enjoy the summer, and then it’s September which is basically the start of election season.

At the open house, Tail heard the full gamut of comments, questions, and ideas. Most concerning were the questions she coudn’t answer, because the information was confusing even to the Mayor.

"It’s fair to say there is confusion over the shoreline setbacks," she said. (ICYMI, read about it in last week’s The Westshore edition.) Council has already kiboshed the initial 30 metre setback proposal, so what was it doing on the information board? And about the other Development Permit Areas, where do they even apply?

"These are meant to be display boards for the average residents, and even I’m looking at it thinking, I don’t understand that. It looked like a mistake," she said about one zoning description with an unusually low minimum density requirement.

Staff were at the open house, but in such a crowded room with a dozen concurrent conversations, they weren’t readily accessible to give answers.

That uncomfortable feeling characterized much of the OCP consultation process, that’s been plugging along during the pandemic. It’s been hard to get people’s attention, hard to facilitate meetings, hard to make sure everyone has a chance to be heard.

There’s a chance it will plug along well into another year. If council doesn’t approve the OCP update before the election, it will be up to the next council whether they a) send this draft to staff to keep responding to feedback, b) direct staff to start fresh on a new OCP update and discarding this draft, or c) discard this draft and do nothing with regards to the OCP.

Article Author's Profile Picture
Zoë Ducklow
Reporter, The Westshore

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