An ongoing saga that has bedevilled Sooke’s political landscape since September 2017 was at least partially resolved by Sooke council Monday night.
Council held a public hearing and passed a zoning amendment bylaw that will allow for businesses operating in an area that encompasses about 900 properties in Sooke to apply for temporary-use permits to conduct their operations.
The permits will only be available for what council dubbed historic non-conforming non-residential uses which include a use that was lawfully in existence before a new zoning bylaw came into effect in 2010.
The temporary permits will allow for these uses to continue for a period of up to three years, with a possibility of renewal for up to another three years.
There are some restrictions on the permits including one that will prevent the permit holders from constructing any new structures on their property for the purposes of conducting their business.
The resolution, though, has left some of the principles involved in the issue puzzling over their next moves and at least one councillor questioning whether council’s approach is wrong-headed.
“I’m against coming up with definitions like this on the fly and making them part of a bylaw,” said Coun. Tony St. Pierre, who, along with Coun. Brenda Parkinson, was one of only two votes opposing the zoning amendment.
“The language was put together during a council meeting in a very pressured situation. This is about good governance. That’s what we have to show that we’re going to do.”
But Mayor Maja Tait was pleased with the outcome of the meeting and said it allow the district to proceed with the development of a new official community plan that may allow for a highway commercial node which would make an allowance for the sorts of business under discussion and allow those businesses stability into the future.
There was, however, one aspect of the meeting that troubled Tait.
“This was a public hearing and a vote on a zoning amendment bylaw and should never have degenerated into a discussion of a particular business. Unfortunately, in a public hearing format, it’s difficult to prevent that since everyone has to be given the opportunity to make their views known,” Tait said.
Her comment referred to the sometimes tearful presentations made by members of the Lewers family whose property is next door to a business operated by well-known Sooke resident and businessman Shawn Driver. He has operated a welding and fabrication business on his property at 5536 Sooke Rd. for almost 20 years.
The Lewers family have in the past two years been strident opponents to any move to allow Driver to continue to operate his business and, at Monday’s council meeting, Derrek Lewers characterized his family as “innocent victims” and at various times compared the Driver welding operation to “a drug lab, chop shop or someone dealing with stolen property.”
The comments were allowed as part of Lewers’ public presentation, but Tait acknowledged that they were not relevant to the conversation and that there has never been any indication that Driver has been anything but a law-abiding and industrious businessman in the community.
In fact, the Christmas tree located at Sooke’s roundabout was created by Driver’s welding shop and he’s currently been asked to price a cabinets for the Sooke RCMP to store their equipment.