October Mayoral Message: Tremendous (& Exciting) Work Ahead

Thursday, October 14, 2021 – The T’Sou-ke First Nation flag is flying at the District of Sooke Municipal Hall.  It is an honour to work with Chief Planes and the T’Sou-ke First Nation Council as we guide members of both of our communities in caring for each other and our physical environment for generations to come.  We raised the flag together to mark a significant milestone in our commitment to a reconciliation process guided by the knowledge and experience of the T’Sou-ke First Nation.

This care for our community extends to our vision for Sooke – that of a vibrant, inclusive net-zero town with a big heart cradled in the stunning beauty and vitality of the ocean and forest. This is the vision residents shared as you were invited to Picture Sooke, and is now taking shape through the draft Official Community Plan. Safe access to community amenities and services and more opportunities to stay and work in Sooke are priorities. The District is looking to apply smart growth policies in working towards making this aspirational vision a reality.

The Transportation Master Plan, approved last year, outlines key corridors for expansion and the need for improved pedestrian and cycling access in our community. Currently, construction on Church and Otter Point Roads are underway. We know construction on these roads simultaneously is not ideal. This was done so that the District could recognize significant cost savings. Planning for Church Road improvements has been underway for some time and while the Otter Point Road Active Transportation Corridor was previously identified to take place in 2024 of our five-year financial plan; the District was successful in receiving $1.8 million in funding through the COVID Resilience stream of the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program which required amendments to the construction schedule.

In addition to securing funding for Otter Point Road, the District was recently successful with two granting streams to assist with the Church Road construction projects. $500,000 for the current road work and $500,000 will be applied to the Church Road Roundabout Active Transportation Project currently scheduled for next year.

Progress has also been made with our Parks and Trails Master Plan. The Bluffs staircase repairs in the Whiffin Spit neighbourhood will soon be completed and the multi-use sports box at 2430 Phillips Road is about to hit a major milestone with the pouring of a concrete floor any day now (weather permitting). Next month, rink boards will frame the facility to lacrosse box specifications, as the project team works towards an early 2022 opening. Plans are also being finalized on the fenced dog park at Ponds Park Corridor and the conversation will continue on John Phillips Memorial Park.

Specific to the Lions’ Club Proposal at John Phillips Memorial Park, Council has directed staff to bring back a report forward containing the lease details, the Development Permit process, and options for further engagement.  I recognize there was confusion with the alternative approval process (AAP) and concerns about why this path was identified. The park has considerable history and has been the focus of several community conversations over the years. John Phillips Memorial Park has been identified as a community park with purposes that include 1) a destination park that serves residents and visitors, 2)forms the visual, physical and social focus of our community and 3) offers natural feature and/or built facilities.

The Lions’ proposal presented an option to advance community amenities for consideration. To determine viability of this option, the AAP took place.  With future development in the area including new housing and a significant transit corridor, while also being connected by safe bike and pedestrian access – this is an opportunity to action smart growth and ensure our community has universally accessible amenities to meet our growing needs.  At this time, no decision has been made on the future of John Phillips Memorial Park.

While the Provincial Ministerial Order M192 and improved technology allowed us to continue with public meetings during the last 18-months, I am pleased to share that Council meetings have resumed with in-person public participation. Meetings will continue to be live-streamed on the District’s YouTube channel with the recording available within 24-hours of the meeting end.

There is no doubt that this has been a challenging time and there is a tremendous amount of work ahead. This work includes a combination of advocacy work by District Council and directing priorities for staff. Advocacy work is occurring in areas of transportation and wastewater infrastructure, regional health facilities, enhanced local transit services and emergency communications to name a few. Current priorities for District staff include Official Community Plan development, climate action response, exploring a public plaza partnership with Evergreen Shopping Centre, and implementing the Transportation and the Parks and Trails Master Plans.

As we continue this work, I invite you to subscribe to electronic notifications through the District website, email us at council@sooke.ca or telephone 250.642.1634, we would be pleased to hear from you!

I am grateful to serve as your Mayor, I enjoyed connecting with our community at our Celebrate Sooke! Event and look forward to crossing paths with you in the weeks ahead.

Stay well Sooke.

Kindest regards,

Mayor Maja Tait