EDITORIAL: Pre-school lessons for Sooke council

Politicians have opportunity to right a wrong

There are a few basic rules that most of us learn in kindergarten – lessons that really haven’t changed for centuries.

Play fair. Don’t hit people. Say sorry if you hurt somebody.

Those fundamental lessons came to mind as we observed the tap dance of Sooke councillors as they addressed the case of Amanda Booth and the Saseenos Veterinary clinic.

READ: Sooke district under fire for zoning debacle

From what we witnessed, we can only assume there are bureaucrats in Sooke who missed those pre-school lessons.

The story is a bit convoluted, but the gist is that Booth did everything right when she established her business.

In 1992, she paid $5,000 to rezone her land to make her clinic legal.

But 10 years later council adopted a new official community plan that put her clinic outside the accepted use, and in 2006 councillors changed the zoning, essentially making her operation illegal.

Problem was they never bothered to warn her of either of the changes.

Her clinic was made illegal without her knowing, largely because no one at municipal hall thought to exempt vet clinics from the rules.

But some of the administration still insist that they did nothing wrong. They maintained that since more than 10 properties were affected by the changes the municipality had been under no obligation to even send Booth a letter warning her of the change.

Really.

Now Booth is faced with another bill for a spot-rezoning that will allow her to expand her business and, despite the support of three residents who spoke on her behalf and the obvious support of Coun. Tony St. Pierre, the bureaucrats dug in.

They convinced the council to defer a decision on waiving fees until a report is prepared – a report that doubtlessly will point out that administration acted within the letter of the law in all they did.

For her part, Booth is loath to complain too much, citing a fear that the bureaucrats could make life difficult for her. After all, as one wag once noted, it’s better to anger God than a bureaucrat, because God will forgive you.

But regardless of any legal justification for the situation, most right-thinking individuals can see that a mistake was made.

Sooke council and its bureaucracy should now find the strength to play fair, not hurt its people and say sorry when they do.

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