"Interesting to hear Councillor Kasper raise his profound concerns about our Official Community Plan -- which is officially in the midst of a review process as a requirement of the Local Government Act and will proceed next year regardless of what candidates may desire -- so late in the game at the end of his third term as a Sooke councillor and 24 hours before advance polling opens.
I know he has had his reservations about the current OCP, however I have certainly not heard him speak so harshly about it in the seven years I've watched him in action as a councillor in the administrations of Mayors Milne and Tait. I'm surprised to hear about the 2014 legal advice to the DOS clean up the OCP and the fact that it hasn't been done after four more years under the watch of he and the rest of council.
From what I've been able to gather, the OCP review process stopped in 2017 because the then-Chief Administrative Officer ~ recruited by the hiring committee of Councillors Kasper, Pearson and Reay in their wisdom in late 2015 and approved by Mayor and council as a whole ~ was faced with a depleted planning department and needed to redeploy OCP point person Danica Rice to zoning and land use case files.
At the time, one planner had gone on pregnancy leave and another had been hired by the City of Colwood. The planning department had been without a chief planner since the departure of Gerard LeBlanc in 2014, a position only filled early this year with the hiring of Ivy Campbell. I can only assume there was either a shortage of available planners to hire ... or the CAO did not get the authority to hire another planner who would have allowed Ms. Rice to continue her excellent #PlanSookeNowwork on the OCP.
(Similarly, as I understand it, our fire department was short two career firefighters for an extended period of time, resulting in the large overtime bills racked up by the remaining fire fighters as they scrambled to cover shifts that were necessary for the operation of a volunteer department that must meet provincial regs and those of Fire Underwriters insurance providers.)
Mr. Kasper, of course, was not involved in council business when our current OCP was created, having lost his bid for election as Sooke Mayor to Janet Evans. I agree with he and others that the OCP is an overly long document with too many clauses and sub-clauses that can be mined for contradictions and inconsistencies by those seeking them.
This said, it is an inspiring (for me and many others, at least), big-picture and finely detailed document that effectively captures strong threads of a community vision that carries over from CRD and Sooke community plans dating back to at least 1980. (A copy of that particular plan can be found in the library's reference section ~ it's fascinating to see that we continue to hold firm to an ongoing vision of a compact, modestly dense harbour village town centre, light-industrial land in Milnes Landing, a commercial node in Saseenos and the retention of our rural and wilderness character everywhere else.)
The 2010 OCP was the result of a wide-spread public process under the guidance of a seemingly reputable consultant (Mazzoni & Associates; see this PDF file here for details). Hundreds of Sooke residents contributed ideas at open houses. And staff, councillors and the OCP steering committee dedicated untold hundreds of hours in taking the document to completition. Definitely not an effort worthy of such a casual dismissal.
A few months ago on my Facebook page, Mr. Kasper left a first-time-ever (and only to date) comment about one of my posts and stated that the process leading to our current community plan had been quote/unquote "hijacked." He did not reply when I asked him to explain what he meant. I'm glad at least that he is now sharing his true feelings about the subject with the Sooke News Mirror.
Finally, since this reply has now grown longer than your article itself, Mr. Collins, I'd like to thank Councillor Kasper for voting along with Mayor Tait and Councillors Pearson and Berger in favour of an OCP amendment that may well avoid one or more court cases that will cost the District of Sooke (read: we taxpayers) considerable sums of money.
As all who attended last week's public hearing and earlier council meetings related to this subject can attest, it is a truly complicated matter in which both the District and the owner of 5536 Sooke Rd. are seemingly culpable for extending and allowing this egregious matter to drag on for so long. Our zoning bylaws have not been enforced and much water has been allowed to tsunami under the bridge.
Last week's council vote upheld staff and legal opinions that it would be best to move ahead with the option of a temporary permit for which illegal non-complying businesses could apply. I imagine that the owners of 5536 Sooke Rd. will step up in the next few months or early next year with a request for a permit. Mayor and council will then be in a position to give the applicant strict marching orders that could relate to hours of operation, buffer zones, noise abatement and riparian remediation to be enacted within a specific time period (two years or less).
As outlined in the staff report upon which last week's vote was based, the ultimate fate of this and any other illegal (distinct from grandfathered) non-conforming businesses in the Gateway Residential zone will be determined by the next phase of the OCP review. Is a new "commercial highway zone" a good fit along the Saseenos stretch of Hwy #14? Might industrial uses under current zoning (M3) such as welding be permitted there (highly unlikely)?
These questions will be assessed through what I hope is a renewed public process that will lead to a final OCP (I'm guessing) in 2020 ~ 10 years since the last and in keeping with the length of time between OCPs for many BC municipalities.
The revised bylaws flowing from our new OCP will determine the outcome. If industrial uses are indeed not permitted in the same way they aren't (or shouldn't be) now, then the District will be able to say it has exhausted all attempts to find a solution. The owner will need to cease-and-desist and find a new space for his business on legal industrial M3 zoned land wherever it might be.
Given all the uncertainties and legal tangles regarding this matter, this seems to me (as well as staff, District lawyers and the four councillors who voted in favour) the best possible way forward through this mess."