A Notice of Motion was brought forward by Councillor Kerrie Reay to find a location for the new Vancouver Island Regional Library (VIRL) in Sooke – with emphasis on reconsidering the John Phillips Memorial Park (JPMP) location.
The matter was brought back into light at Monday night’s council meeting because the current VIRL library (located on Anna Marie Road) is already at maximum capacity – and that further delay on making a final decision on the library’s new location may result in Sooke not having a new library until 2020 or later.
According to Reay’s report, Sooke was one of the first jurisdictions to express desire to proceed, putting the District of Sooke on top of VIRL’s consolidated library list. In 2012, VIRL conducted a community consultation in Sooke to identify a parcel of land for the library.
“But this was delayed by the municipality again. For the past two years, the district has been unable to identify a parcel of land for its location,” Reay said.
The suggested JPMP location- which has been subject to intense public discussion since 2010 due to site’s history and cultural significance to Sooke – was met with opposition from members of the public as well as councillors Brenda Parkinson and Ebony Logins.
“There is so much opposition to that location, and I can’t support it either, just because I can’t get that parkland back; once it’s gone, it’s gone,” Logins said. “Unless the district has a plan around bringing in parkland in other downtown locations, giving up that space doesn’t sit right with me.”
A final decision has been in limbo for two years; with discussions from council considering multiple options that have either been too small, too costly, or just not wanted by the public. Even a possible land swap with the Lions was brought up at one point, though the piece of property was just too small.
“We even thought to go to developers and owners of land who want to grow their projects and do business, but that proved to be too expensive,” said Councillor Rick Kasper.
With public focus and opposition remaining firm on protecting the John Phillips Park location, Kasper noted a final decision still needs to be made soon.
“The emotional record on what we decide to do with that piece of land is a bit long in tooth,” Kasper said. “If we show some leadership in conjunction with the VIRL, perhaps we’ll see a brand-new facility there in less than two years. Otherwise, we’ll be here in 2020 going around in circles over and over.”
Mayor Maja Tait noted another path to take would be setting the focus on the town centre – and perhaps fitting the new library into those set of plans.
“I would like us to look at the options; would a developer be interested in providing the land as an amenity instead of the other things are always looking at?” Tait said. “I just struggle with us putting a building outside the town centre when that’s been an ongoing priority for this council.”
For the time being council will currently hold out on Reay’s motion to progress with the JPMP location of the new library, with a decision to be considered in the next council report on the matter.