District of Sooke council seeks more input into its ambitious official community plan before taking it to a public hearing.
Council was expected to give first reading to the OCP bylaw on Monday before councillors decided they needed more information from the public.
Community volunteers, council and staff have been working on the 237-page plan for the last two years, bringing in more than 2,000 pieces of public input.
“I see the intent of wanting to get it done,” said Mayor Maja Tait, “but this is so council can have an opportunity to engage and consult with the public.”
The goal of the OCP is to guide growth for the next 10 years, while protecting the environment, preparing for climate change and clarifying land use.
The plan focuses on what makes Sooke unique, with council’s 2019 declarations of a Climate Emergency and a Compassionate Community.
Although there have been public consultations, more is needed, Tait said, adding an open house hosted by the OCP committee late last year attracted only 11 residents, likely due to the pandemic.
Council asked staff for a further report and to schedule an open house this spring.
“I know the committee has done extensive work with our staff for months, but under the weight of (COVID), council could not connect with the public in person. This sort of work has to be done in the public eye with the public present, especially with such an important document,” Tait said.
Coun. Al Beddows, council’s representative on the OCP committee, said he’s disappointed with council’s decision not to proceed with the first reading, but agreed there are unresolved issues.
Two areas of concern include proposals to reduce foreshore setback from 30 to 15 metres, and to rezone the Farrell Estates property from community residential to rural, limiting the ability to rezone in the future.
“Everybody agrees the OCP is relatively good. It just needs some fine tuning,” Beddows said.
He hopes to see the OCP passed before the municipal election in October, especially since council committed to getting the OCP completed this term. A new council could come in and want to start the process again, he added.
“My concern is to finish the job we said we’d do.”