A gated community development in Sunriver is causing a stir with Sooke residents after public vehicle access to the Sooke River bank may be threatened.
The development, known as the Sunriver Seniors Village subdivision, will have 97 units, including a walkway from the end of Shambrook Drive to the existing park and provide “adequate” access to the river, but vehicle access to the river may be cut off due to “topographical, geotechnical, environmental and archaeological concerns,” according to a Sooke district staff report.
“The beach along the river is one of the few places in Sooke that toddlers can safely play in the water, and with a significant downgrade slope, no vehicle access severely limits accessibility for all,” wrote Sooke resident Terrance Martin in a letter to Sooke council, urging mayor and council to consider amending the final development plan, or at least ensure future access remains open, even after the subdivision is completed.
“I don’t see any rational explanation as to why we’re allowing a gated community at all in Sooke, why should it obstruct the new park down there,” Martin said, noting that gate posts are already installed at the entrance of the property.
The decision to provide water access to the public or not during the development process is solely that of the approving officer, though of the requestor is not satisfied with the decision, there’s an opportunity to appeal it.
Still, it’s enough to cause frustration among residents, who may find themselves locked out of their own public turf.
“I can’t recall anyone telling me this was going to be a gated community, it never came up,” said Coun. Rick Kasper, referring to the developer’s initial zoning application. “I strongly contend that the provisions of the Land Title Act should be met in this case where there should be access to the general public to the river, whether it’s a park, whether it’s ALR, I don’t care.”
Coun. Kerrie Reay raised the question of how good public access down to that part of Sooke River is in the first place, considering it is a critical spawning area for salmon to go up towards Charters Creek.
“I have concerns about public access with dogs and people in the river. I’m not opposed to it, but it’s something to be mindful of,” she said, adding that restrictions imposed to the public won’t fly either. “If there are gates cutting off public access, then they’ll have to come down.”