Saseenos Veterinary Services clinic appears to have been the victim of unfair treatment by the District of Sooke.
Now city staff has been tasked to explain its actions in the face of calls to waive rezoning fees.
The clinic, located at 5490 Sooke Rd., first started operating in a residence on the property in 1989. That residence was demolished, and in 1994 a new clinic was constructed, with the owner, Dr. Amanda Booth, doing everything right.
“Prior to the construction of the new clinic, the owner applied for a rezoning in 1992 from Land Use Bylaw No. 2040, 1992 which was amended to change the property from Agriculture (AG) to Rural (A) to make it legal to construct and operate the new veterinary clinic,” the district said in an administrative report.
But that’s where things get a little murky.
In 2006, council adopted Sooke Zoning Bylaw No. 270 and changed the zoning on the property from Rural (A) to Rural (RU2) with veterinary clinic and animal hospital being removed as a permitted use.
Concurrent with the rezoning application in 1992, Booth applied to amend the Official Community Plan to change the property from an agriculture designation to a rural designation to operate a veterinary clinic. That application was supported.
But a new OCP was adopted in 2002 that changed the property’s land use designation back to agricultural, putting the vet clinic outside the accepted use parameters.
Booth was never notified of the change since, according to the bylaws, the administration did not have to notify Booth since more than 10 properties were affected by the move.
“That is their argument, but the fact is that we were the only vet clinic and the only ones who would be affected, so it wouldn’t have been hard for them to let us know,” Booth said.
So despite having followed all the rules at the time of establishing her operation in 2009, Booth found her clinic was designated as “legal nonconforming,” a designation that prevented her from building a now-planned addition to her business.
“It’s really frustrating. Back in 2009, I was told not to worry because I was grandfathered in, but I only ever got that verbally. They aren’t honouring that now,” Booth said.
It also meant that she will have to apply for rezoning under the variance passed at council – a rezoning that will cost the clinic thousands of dollars.
Well-known council-watcher Ellen Lewers placed the blame for the situation squarely on the district.
“A mistake was made by the district by not capturing the existing business at the time,” Lewers said.
“This was a change that the district imposed and it shouldn’t mean that she (Booth) should have to pay for rezoning. These fees should be waived.”
That position was echoed by two other speakers at the meeting, although Booth declined to speak.
Coun. Tony St. Pierre was initially supportive of the idea of waiving the rezoning fees for the clinic.
“I think there was a mistake made and we should own that mistake and waive the rezoning fees,” St. Pierre said.
But following a cautionary note from Coun. Ebony Logins, the matter was sent back to administration for a report on whether a mistake was actually made.
“We’ll be looking at it and will report back to council,” said Sooke chief administrative officer Norm McInnis.
“If we made a mistake then we’ll be recommending that the fees are waived.”