District of Sooke council has lumbered over the first hurdle to approving a 10-year plan encompassing land use, development, climate change and the environment.
Council voted unanimously Monday to give Sooke’s official community plan bylaw first reading and send it to a public hearing in June.
Council, staff and community volunteers have been working on the plan for 18 months, bringing in more than 2,500 pieces of public input.
While the draft OCP spans dozens of topics over 238 pages and seven chapters, much of the discussion in recent weeks has been about zoning designations and a decision by council to retain a 15-metre foreshore setback after a 30m setback was proposed. Other residents have lobbied council and staff individually and there are still questions about provincial housing and Indigenous policies.
Matthew Pawlow, the district’s director of planning, said any law or documents from other government levels could be added later to the OCP as an amendment.
The district will hold an open house on the OCP on May 7, where residents can comment on the draft before it receives second and third reading and goes to public hearing in June. The open house at Sooke Community Hall is from noon to 4 p.m.
“We’re not going to dismiss (the public’s) concerns,” said Coun. Al Beddows, council’s representative on the OCP committee. “We’re’s going to look at each and every one of them. Two weeks ago the public came to us with some errors. Council reacted to that and we made the necessary changes.”
Couns. Tony St-Pierre and Ebony Logins urged council to pass the first reading of the bylaw, which would move the document to a public hearing.
“We do need a new OCP. There’s no doubt about it. The last one is swiss cheeses at this point,” St-Pierre said.
Couns. Megan McMath and Jeff Bateman were concerned with the lack of public consultation, hampered by provincial health restrictions and the pandemic.
McMath said some pieces don’t lie within some councillors’ expertise, so they receive more insight and perspective as they continue to hear from the public.
“The OCP is meant to be a high-level document, and then council needs to adopt other policies,” said Mayor Maja Tait. “I don’t think this document will be everything to everyone. There are some decisions to be made as we go into the the future.”
Council hopes to adopt the OCP before this fall’s municipal election. The Capital Regional District reviews the document before final adoption.