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More bylaw officers needed in Sooke

Municipality is at odds at being able to enforce its own bylaws.

As demands for municipal services in Sooke rise, the District of Sooke could soon see more bylaw enforcement officers.

The district employs one bylaw enforcement officer.

But with Sooke’s growing population of 13,000 and local bylaws increasing , the municipality is at odds when it comes to enforcing its own rules, illegally-parked vehicles and removal of unsightly premises in particular.

“As this community continues to grow, we need to take a look at what sort of compliance, enforcement and education you want to deal with. Having one person working regular hours isn’t going to do the job that residents in Sooke need,” said Teresa Sullivan, district chief administrative officer.

Lack of bylaw enforcement certainly has the potential to hurt local business, even create safety hazards to the public.

Last summer, parking issues along West Coast Road near the Prestige Resort Hotel hit their peak, with driveways being blocked and pedestrians coming dangerously close to getting clipped by passing vehicles. In the downtown core, Sullivan said the municipality received calls from local business owners saying people are using their parking and blocking customers.

To alleviate the parking pressures at both locations, the district got two lots, each with a two-year lease; one at Eustace and Otter Point and another on Maple Road South. Still, despite the lots and numerous “no parking” signs, problems continue at both locations as it still comes down to enforcement.

Leasing both parking lots drew some criticism from Coun. Bev Berger, saying the costs may not outweigh the benefits.

“It will be $24,000 a year, and in a five-year budget, that’s $120,000, or close to a two per cent tax increase. That one I’m wrestling with because I don’t see the value for the dollar. It’s almost the cost of a police officer. I can’t support it.”

Mayor Maja Tait also acknowledged people still continue to park in the wrong places.

“Residents are parking on Eustace Road, despite the two-hour max signage, they park there all day. Pedestrians are finding it a challenge to get onto Otter Point Road,” she said.

This is where council and staff need to have the conversation about what it needs to do, Sullivan said, adding the two-year leases are a test to see if either parking issues have improved or worsened since the lots were put into place.

“If mayor and council would say to me, this is a priority, we need to make sure that we’re not only cleaning up on unsightly premises, but we’re paying attention to parking and other issues that are going on in the community,” Sullivan said. “They set the level of service and then we need to staff accordingly. It’s no different than fire services.”