District of Sooke council has granted approval for the construction of nearly 100 new homes and much-needed commercial space on a vacant piece of land adjacent to Mariner’s Village, marking the first significant rezoning to be passed by council since the municipal election held last fall.
Council voted in favour of Seacliff Properties’ proposal to build 98 housing units, 16,000 square feet of commercial space and various public amenities.
The proposed site for this project spans 2.7 hectares and is located at the intersection of Church and Sooke roads.
The Harbourside development plan was contentious, with councillors hearing from 22 speakers and receiving 28 letters on the project. But after a lengthy discussion, council voted unanimously to move forward with a development permit. Coun. Megan McMath was absent from the meeting.
While a majority of speakers expressed opposition to the project, some people were pleased with the developer’s inclusion of public amenities, such as a plaza, road improvements and enhanced access to the waterfront.
Many critics cited concerns about the potential strain on existing infrastructure, including roads, utilities and public services, due to the increased population resulting from the new housing units and commercial space.
Many also said the oceanside view would be taken away from the Sooke Road corridor, and the land should be turned into a municipal park.
According to a letter from members of the 2020-2022 OCP advisory committee, the developer’s desire to construct an eight-storey building and incorporate a drive-thru commercial establishment contradicts the opinions expressed by the community during the planning process and the draft of the official community plan from last year.
Both the existing official community plan (OCP) and the proposed revised OCP stress the importance of ensuring that projects along the Sooke Road waterfront preserve and establish physical and visual connections with the waterfront, as it is considered the heart and soul of Sooke, the group highlighted.
Staff reports to the council indicate that the property falls within the Mariner’s Village Area 1, CD7 Zone, aligning with the OCP.
Previous development permits were approved for multi-family residential and townhouse units in Phase 1 of Mariner’s Village. Additionally, a development permit for a mixed-use building called Merchant’s Landing was approved but expired without construction. Mariner’s Village’s parent company went into receivership in 2015.
Harbourside consists of three buildings of varying heights and uses. Building A is an eight-storey apartment building with 91 rental units. Building B will consist of a one-storey commercial complex accommodating four units, including a drive-thru business. Building C will be a three-storey mixed-use building featuring two commercial units and townhouses.
The project will include parking facilities, outdoor patio areas, and amenities for both residents and the general public. It will also incorporate pedestrian walkways, public art installations and landscaping with native plants and trees.
As part of the proposed development, several improvements will be made to Sooke Road, including the addition of a new transit stop along the property’s frontage, an eastbound left-turn lane into Sooke Elementary School, an expanded westbound left-turn lane onto Goodmere Road, and intersection enhancements for Sooke and Goodmere roads.
The project will also include land dedication and frontage improvements,encompassing the construction of sidewalks, a new pedestrian connection and view corridor.
Coun. Kevin Pearson, who made the motion to approve the development permit with four minor variances, pointed out the land was already zoned for development.
“This is a historical piece of property of property that’s been an eyesore in the centre of Sooke,” he said.
“I know the view is good, but what’s between that road and that view is not acceptable anymore.”
Councillors Jeff Bateman and Al Beddows had reservations about approving the application. Still, they said the project conforms to zoning bylaws and the OCP.
Bateman received assurances from staff and the developer that covenants were in place and a commitment to more green space in future phases.
“It’s best for Sooke in the long run,” Beddows said.