Council, staff and I have been working on representing the best interests of Sooke, its citizens, landowners and the public over the past year. Part of that work has been looking at development in our community and how to best make it work.
With regard to development, over the past year a number of property owners have come forward indicating that they did not know or did not agree with changes made to their property during the implementation of Zoning Bylaw 500. Council is concerned that a full public process needs to be invoked when dealing with land use changes of this magnitude that affects people’s private property rights. We believe property owners not having knowledge of the changes in zoning implemented in Bylaw 500 must be remedied. As it currently stands, this leaves Bylaw 500 and actions taken by the District of Sooke subject to challenge, as well as potential financial and legal concerns.
As a result council is going to adopt a new zoning bylaw for Sooke. council and staff are of the opinion that opportunities for improvement exist and as a result have started on a path to adopt a new zoning bylaw. This new zoning bylaw will better reflect zoning for the community, that best protects the interests of the public and accurately represents the direction which Council believes is appropriate for Sooke.
The intent is to maintain most of the content of Zoning Bylaw 500, with changes. We must ensure through proper notification and public processes that everyone is fully aware of the changes and has an opportunity to participate. In this new bylaw we must rationalize Sooke’s land use regulations and implement measures that are fair to landowners and their neighbours while considering the OCP, the Town Centre plans and Residential designations.
It is absolutely essential that the process moves as quickly as possible in order to not unnecessarily delay decisions or actions landowners may wish to take.
Staff, with council’s direction, is working on the new zoning bylaw and the mapping changes that need to be shown on the zoning map. I see these changes being completed shortly. This together with the first draft of a new zoning bylaw will be posted on our web site as soon as available. The public process will also include two Open Houses. The first Open House is proposed to be held in November. A public hearing will be held later in 2012 and final adoption will follow with provincial approval in early 2013.
The past few months have been an exciting, and somewhat demanding, time for Council and staff and I want to thanks everyone who participated in the process for their commitment, professionalism and cooperation in working towards in remedying this matter.
Mayor Wendal Milne