Sooke’s official community plan took another step toward completion this week when council began a chapter-by-chapter review of the 238-page document.
The official community plan (OCP) is the blueprint for community development.
The plan aims to guide growth over the next 10 years while protecting the environment, preparing for climate change, and clarifying land use. In addition to Climate Emergency and Compassionate Community declarations, the plan discusses what makes Sooke unique.
Council, staff and community volunteers have been working on the plan for 18 months, bringing in more than 2,500 pieces of public input and hosting two open houses. Councillors gave first reading to the draft OCP bylaw in April. A public hearing will be held within the next two months.
“I don’t think this is something we rush to finish,” Mayor Maja Tait said. “If council needs time to get answers to their questions we need to be patient.”
Tait said by council reviewing the draft OCP together in a committee-of-the-whole meeting, councillors are approaching the document in the same way.
“There are members of the community that have concerns or questions. Now we have a way of weaving that in through the review process,” she said.
Both Tait and Coun. Al Beddows, council’s representative on the OCP committee, said by council reviewing the draft plan as a group, there was a better appreciation of the process.
“There was nothing in the first 40 pages we went through that dramatically altered anything in the OCP,” Beddows said.
Still, there was concern the data used was outdated based on 2016 numbers. Information from Statistics Canada will be updated.
Other issues surrounding the draft OCP in recent weeks have been about zoning designations and a decision by council to retain a 15-metre foreshore setback after a 30-metre setback was proposed.
Some councillors made pledges during the 2018 municipal election that they would push for passage of the OCP by this year’s election. That was before the COVID pandemic hit.
Tait and Beddow agreed the pandemic disrupted everything. There was no longer a chance to meet people face-to-face and oftentimes councillors couldn’t get together.
”Sometimes in a digital environment, it can be difficult to comprehend the concern or express it because so much of our communication is non-verbal. Now we’re coming together,” Tait said.
Beddows, who made a promise in the 2018 election race to complete the OCP, is confident that the document can be passed before this October’s municipal election.
“I’m saying optimistically we can get it done.”
Tait isn’t so sure.
“If you rush something it will just come back and be pulled apart again,” she said.