Sooke’s new council held its first meeting on Tuesday night. (Tim Collins/Sooke News Mirror)

Sooke’s new council held its first meeting on Tuesday night. (Tim Collins/Sooke News Mirror)

New Sooke councillors face old issues and new challenges

First meeting of new council sets the stage for the future

Sooke’s newly-elected council held its first meeting Tuesday and it was an opportunity to see the new councillors in action as new issues combined with a particularly irksome piece of old business on the agenda.

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The meeting opened with a request for assistance from the Sooke Rotary Club.

John Topolniski, representing Rotary members, asked the council to help the club by removing the panels from the kiosk on Sooke Road as they were in “pretty rough shape, out of date, and inaccurate.”

Council agreed to the request without dedicating any funds to the project while Coun. Al Beddows at one point seemed to slip back into his role as the president of the Sooke Lions Club, indicating the Lions would likely be prepared to help out with the request.

A comment from staff that there might not be indoor space to store the panels once they’re removed drew some laughter when Topolniski pointed out that the panels had been outside for 20 years and likely would be fine if stored outdoors in the works yard.

The next order of business revived an issue carried over from the last council as the bylaw amendment would allow commercial, “historic, non-conforming” activities to operate in a large area of low-density housing came up on the agenda. After a bit of discussion the new councillors, led by Beddows, convinced the council to kick this particular can down the road for another two meetings so that material could be read by the new councillors.

First and second reading of the bylaw amendment, which would prompt a public hearing if approved, was postponed for two meetings.

Finally, a lengthy discussion, headed by Coun. Ebony Logins, dealt with the report of the affordable housing committee.

Logins, who chairs the committee, headed up the call for more funds for the preparation of a housing needs assessment. council voted to up the amount dedicated to the project from the already approved $10,000 to $35,000 in anticipation of major funding that the provincial government has indicated to be in the works in the near future.

While the rest of the council agenda proceeded without much drama, the meeting provided a chance to observe the dynamics between the members of the council.

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Mayor Maja Tait was, as always, the consummate professional, taking time to help instruct the new councillors on, not only the issues before them but on basic rules of the council. Going in and out of the committee-of-the-whole seemed particularly confusing.

Tait also took on an instructive role on more mundane matters, frequently reminding some councillors to turn on their microphone before speaking.

Logins demonstrated her experience during the debate on affordable housing, providing historical context to the discussions. The same might be said of Coun. Brenda Parkinson who, although not offering much in the way of new insights, did make a few observations and led by example in following the appropriate protocols of the council.

Coun. Jeff Bateman distinguished himself through frequent demonstrations that he had not only read all the relevant materials regarding the matters on the council’s agenda but had also done some supplemental research on the issues. Bateman also set himself up as the spell and grammar checker of council documents and on several occasions pointed out the mistakes to correct the record.

Coun. Tony St. Pierre, offered a few insights (although he had to be reminded to turn on his microphone a few times), while the youngest member of the new council, Coun. Megan McMath, remained silent for the entire meeting.

As for Al Beddows, the longtime Sooke resident and volunteer seemed genuinely pleased to be at the council table, offering a few nuggets of wisdom and context and even a few chuckles as he was slow to drop his hand during votes, leaving Tait to question whether he was voting for or against a motion.

“Oh, I’m for it, I’m just a bit slow here,” he chuckled.

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