Of the number of concerns I have regarding Sooke’s official community plan, the following are three principle requirements that, in my view, need to be addressed before considered for adoption.
There is a need for more effective, targeted consultation. The OCP directly impacts people living in specific community areas, several commercial enterprises and social sectors. It’s critical these groups be invited to consult on the various aspects of the plan that directly impact their lives and livelihoods.
There is a need for an improved design of the OCP. A comprehensive list of goals and objectives does not indicate critical interdependencies and possibly conflicting requirements. It would be worthwhile to organize the material in other ways as well that enable a more holistic understanding of the plan.
One of the most important elements of the design of any plan is the economic implications of the plan: some broad estimate of the social and economic cost/benefits of the plan, including how the costs will be covered, which is currently missing from the OCP.
There is a need for a fundamental system change in the implementation, application and regulatory administration of the plan.
The detailed prescriptive rules, standards, approval processes and the various permit requirements and fees in the current bylaws will be significantly increased with the implementation of the OCP. This will exacerbate the already lengthy time and costs for developers and individuals wanting to implement any development related to the plan.
Applying uniform rules and standards to highly variable environments is inherently flawed. The regulatory system is essentially adversarial in nature and places regulatory agencies in a position of inordinate power.
A basic redesign is required. The OCP needs to be significantly simplified and better integrated and be a guide rather than a bylaw. The current rigid prescriptive bylaws and standards must be replaced by principles and objectives. These need to be applied by the district staff and affected parties coming together and consulting as equals working towards the best solution to a specific request on a case-by-case basis.
Creatively addressing these requirements will not only be beneficial to Sooke, but it will also be an innovative model for other communities across the province.