Letters: Council needs to follow process

Local "watchdog" takes issue with way council makes decisions

Where bias exists, critical thinking does not. One need look no further than meetings of Sooke Council or the Land Use and Environment Committee. Approvals are spur-of-the-moment. Discussion is limited to members pushing personal agendas, questioning efforts of staff, and failing to recognize governance as a continuing process.  This last item refers to a failure to ask about the history of the matter before them.  Has the item been before council in the past?  Are there existing resolutions regarding the issue? The current group of councillors seems to view themselves in isolation. There is no better example than their acceptance of the bike park, with no recognition of past resolutions re John Phillips Memorial Park (JPMP).

In November, 2006, Sooke council passed a resolution to accept the John Phillips Memorial Park Trust Committee Report, and adopt the recommendations of that committee. Both the Parks and Trails Master Plan and the Official Community Plan include wording that supports the Trust Committee Report, and both documents were adopted by council resolution. This history of JPMP is imperative in any new discussions. Motions which conflict with existing resolutions, are null and void under Robert’s Rules (Section 38). There is no doubt that the issue of the bike park should not have been given the attention  it received, without consideration of past resolutions and the Trust Committee Report. The whole history must be a part of any discussion, not simply a quick remark that support exists in the Parks and Trails Master Plan, which as pointed out, actually supports the Trust Committee Report.

Other than a simple slalom run, designed in a Figure 8, there is no bike park in the Trust Committee Report. More importantly, the report dictates phases of development for the park, which are sensible, concise, and necessary. Phase 1 identifies issues of protection for the environment, trails, lighting, washrooms, parking, and so on. In other words making the park user-friendly.  All of the listed items are necessary before the park becomes a community gathering place, and together represent a large expenditure of funds. The issue is, that because agendas and bias prevailed at the governance level, the folks from the bike friendly group were given a feeling of entitlement, while the opposition grew.  Opinions became entrenched, and it will now be difficult to come together in agreement about the JPMP.

There are other issues which indicate a lack of effective governance.  The transfer station on Marilyn Ring Road, where folks are able to take their household wastes for hauling to Hartland, appears to be illegal under the Environmental Management Act, Part 3. Somehow this entity came into being without going to the council table. When the question is asked, the answer is simply, “The property is zoned to allow the use.” Oh! The property is also zoned to allow a pulp mill, a slaughter house and numerous other entities. There is also the problem of definition.  Waste Management and Recycling are permitted uses but no definition is provided.

However, the real issue is an absence of process. This did not come to the council table. No questions were asked. The thing just happened. Sooke River Road residents were under the impression that this was a temporary use, until something could be worked out. If due process had occurred perhaps those who are elected to lead us would have determined that the authority for Solid Waste Management rests with the CRD through provincial legislation and CRD Bylaw 1903, which does need to be upgraded to identify Sooke as a district and not as part of the electoral area. The bylaw identifies the CRD responsibility to be the establishment of a Local Service Area for a solid waste disposal function.  There is on a CRD website, a bylaw to establish a transfer station on Salt Spring Island. It should be required reading for those who were so quick to establish ours.

In this writer’s opinion it is time to return land use issues to the Committee of the Whole, or better yet appoint an Advisory Planning Commission. The current Land Use and Environment Committee has had their opportunity to prove themselves, and now need to be retired.

Gail Hall

Sooke