A good part of the Committee of the Whole meeting on Monday night was dedicated to discussing the Amendment of the Community Amenity Contribution Policy. Amenities are what Sooke gets when a developer wants a higher density. Amenities pay for such things as parks and trails, affordable housing, public art, preservation of heritage structures, etc. The amenity contribution allows the district and the developer to give something back to the community.
Staff discovered that with the policy as it is now, there was no revenue coming to the district from development. The amenity payable (in lieu of parks, affordable housing, etc.) in the town centre was $2,500/unit and outside the town centre $5,000/unit. The idea is to have a positive financial impact to the district, but if the amenity contribution rate was too high it could scare off development.
The amenity contribution was changed in April, 2013 to $1,000/unit in the town centre and $2,000/unit outside the town centre. This has not resulted in more developers lining up to build in Sooke.
Councillor Herb Haldane feels the town is being sterilized by having this policy and no developers were coming to build in Sooke because of the higher cost of doing business. This was countered by a comment in writing from a resident who feels the amenities are necessary to offset capital costs of a variety of socially beneficial projects in the community. Another correspondent stated that Sooke needed to retain its natural amenities and not subsidize development.
The COW decided to bring this back to the table for further discussion and public input.
The question remains — should developers pay amenities? Should the district “subsidize” development? And, what is the real cost (environmental, social, financial) for higher densities and development in Sooke?