Council moves to shake turf field out of the ALR

All-weather field needed at Fred Milne Park for local sport teams.

Sooke is inching closer to making the turf field at Fred Milne Park a reality, but not without some teething pains.

Last week, Sooke council approved to forward an exclusion application to the Agricultural Land Commission, who preferred this should come in as an exclusion application rather than a municipal use application.

“The philosophy behind it was the preparation required to manipulate the ground to accept the field,” Rob Howat, district director of development services, read from the ALR’s written response.

Mayor Maja Tait questioned the ALR’s decision at first, as other properties using the land in the area were not subject to exclusion.

“On Sooke River Road, the horseshoe pitches are allowed as a permitted use on the ALR property, so I’m curious why this would need to be excluded.”

The ALR’s response was that the artificial turf field takes away the agricultural use from the land, and “any future remediations wouldn’t be practical.”

The application was fulfilled by the Capital Regional District on behalf of the Sooke Community Association, which looks to relieve the field of an additional 2.5 hectares of land, which needs to first be excluded from the ALR. In total size, the property accommodating the proposed turf field is 3.5 hectares.

The turf field, which will replace the current field on the northern side of Fred Milne Park on Sooke River Road, is expected to provide a relief from rainy and winter weather to multiple local sports clubs such as soccer and football.

Due to the repeated damage to the field’s natural grass, the Fred Milne fields are often closed, leading to lost games or rescheduling to other fields out of town.

Council also received a letter from Steve Wills, a neighbour located next to the northern property boundary, who is concerned for his family’s privacy and safety and other impacts the turf field may have, particularly to the potential removal of the existing buffer  of trees separating the two properties.

Wills however noted in the letter that he does not necessarily oppose new field, but that some precautions should be considered.

“We do not have an issue with this property being excluded from the ALR, however we would like the trees which are separating the ball field from our residence be retained,” he said, adding that the wall of trees acts as a sound barrier, reducing noise from the field.

No word yet on when the exclusion application will go through, though Tait urged district staff to move along with the application “as quickly as possible.”