Re: Your community needs your ideas (Opinion, June 23)
Any community needs good ideas to prosper and move forward. But when people in power are deaf to those ideas and just push forward their vanity projects, the result is low voter turnout and passivity.
Council was surprised by an unprecedented wave of residents’ activity when the Sooke Lions Club’s proposal for John Phillips Memorial Park was unexpectedly rushed through an alternative (negative) approval process.
It required eligible voters to physically obtain, fill out, and return forms to the city hall if they were opposed to “disposing of 1.9 acres out of 6.9 acres of public parkland” to build a two-storey monstrous club with a banquet hall, concessions and hundreds of paved parking spots.
That’s the green area that “is important” downtown, where such areas “decrease in availability” (staff report).
Just look at the monstrosity of apartment buildings under construction practically in the park. It has already reduced the green area previously available for recreation. Or huge developments around - on Church, the area previously taken by a farm, on Charters, on Drennan. Development also started across the park on Otter Point Road.
This loss of greenspace is tantamount to tripling or quadrupling green gas emissions, not moving to zero per cent, so vainly declared by the council.
All this development takes a toll on the environment and the residents’ quality of life. That’s why 1,100 registered voters took their time to oppose the project. Which was just 100 votes short of the required number and not merely “fewer than 10 per cent.” And that was despite a lack of information about the project, with fewer than 10 per cent of residents aware of it.
Even now, one councillor admitted that no people he spoke to want a building in the park. But the mayor seems to be pushing hard her vanity project of having a sound stage and reception hall to fill the park with noise and car exhaust fumes. The lack of city funds is her excuse for supporting the Lions project. Which contradicts the Master Parks and Trails Plan, where $1 million is reserved for the improvement of John Phillips park in the next five years.
Good ideas were suggested about renovating the existing Sooke Community Hall (which would be cheaper than building a new one) or suspending issuing building permits until a proper environmental assessment is done. But they were simply brushed off.
The refrain that “we can’t stop the development” might be answered by “yes, we can,” if we dispose of this council before they dispose of every inch of green space in the city.