Also newly added is the first of what will surely be an ongoing series of "surprise" projects ~ i.e., the 16 or so home sites likely destined for 2445 Otter Point Rd., a little northeast of Helgeson Rd. Currently a sleepy forested property with two homes hidden in the woods, it suddenly popped up on the radar last month when McElhanney Consulting -- acting on behalf of Valley Remediation Ltd. (which I assume is an ironic name if in reference to the adjoining green jewel of a valley that holds the Helgeson farmbelt and needs wise stewardship, not remediation) -- filed an upzoning request for 27 single-family homes (with potential 3600-sq. foot building envelopes) squeezed into its 2.07 hectares.
We stood our ground as council and insisted the developer stick with the current zoning. In the process, we began asking questions about Sooke's lack of a Community Amenity Contribution Policy (the 2010 version was repealed on May 23, 2017 with a recommendation by council that staff utilize the BC Ministry of Municipal Affairs & Housing's best practices guidelines for amenities and density bonusing in determining fair payments). Basically, the sense (rightly or wrongly) is that we're being shortchanged by developers compared to, say, the City of Langford, in terms of contributions to our town's current and future infrastructure needs. As councillor St-Pierre has noted, we want to creatively partner with investors in ensuring win-wins all around. And 'win' in my mind means congruence with the spirit and letter of the Official Community Plan. (Reference: DOS Development Cost Charge Imposition Bylaw #202, Rev. Nov, 2012).
As I asked in this article originally, how many more of these potential new developments are ready to be birthed? In its first decade, the District upzoned untold numbers of parcels for future development. How many? The conclusion for now: #SookeSmartGrowth is anything but until we get the numbers and anticipate as best we can the x, y and z of future growth.]
As you'll see in the list I've created below, there are more than 1,000 (revised: 1593+) new single-family, townhouse and low-rise apartment homes in the works for Sooke at the moment. There are also an unknown number of properties in town that have been zoned for development by the District of Sooke since incorporation in 1999 but which, for any number of potential reasons, have yet to file development permits and seek final approval to break ground.
Prior to the 2014 election, I was led to believe that as many as 4,000 "doors" had been pre-approved for construction. I was curious to know how far that total has shrunk during the building boom of the last four years in tandem with how many new approvals had been added to the tally since then.
Candidates for municipal office can request information from the District during the campaign period. If available, it's shared with all candidates. (I asked for a meeting with Fire Chief Kenn Mount last month, and his notes from that hour-long chat were made available to us all; you'll find it along with my thoughts about our first-rate emergency response services here).
My latest request (for which I developed the summation of current activity below) was denied on the understandable grounds that i) it would burn up too much limited staff time; and ii) the numbers will be compiled for baseline use in the creation of next year's update of the Transportation Masterplan (recently awarded to the BC consulting firm Urban Systems along with affiliated work on our next Parks & Trails Masterplan.)
I asked because It strikes me that we need to be aware of how much potential growth is incoming (and where) before we can effectively consider further new development applications. Each "door" is liable to house one or two adults plus x number of children and an additional cohort of renters occupying any potential secondary suites. And each of these doors represents a likely minimum of one, or perhaps two or even three vehicles that will add volume to an already busy Hwy #14 and our secondary road network.
Good to know, however, that staff recognize that we already must factor in more than 2,500 more residents once these homes are built-out, taking our current 13,001 residents (2016 census; link to Sooke page) to a number approaching 15,600 and beyond as we reach official city status.
I trust our next council is equally aware of what's coming before it approves additional upzoning in response to development and market pressure while also honouring the spirit and letter of our Official Community Plan.
* 133 Aragon Properties homes and townhouses at the northwest corner of Wadams Way & Church
* 42 Knox Vision Society affordable rental units at southwest corner of Wadams Way & Church
* 31 apartment units at West Wind Harbour Cohousing on the waterfront west of Mariner’s Village
* 16 single-family lots 6829 Grant Road/Stone Hearth Lane (R3 zone)
* 34 units total of duplex, cluster dwellings or town homes at 6829 Grant Rd/Stone Hearth Lane (RM2 zone)
* 36 units/three stories stories of seniors’ cohousing rentals above the multi-use community centre on Lot A
* 10 townhouses on Ayre Road
* 123 (potential) single family and duplexes at Notts Brook (Otter Point Rd. across from Speedsource Fitness)
Otter Point Rd. North
* 41 single-family homes in phase 1 of West Ridge Trails (Burr Road at eastern edge of Broom Hill)
* 72 single-family homes in phase 2 of West Ridge Trails
* ? at Farrell Estates (40 hectares of small, medium & large-lot residences in the Blanchard/Sellars Rd. area)
* 16 single-family homes maximum at 2445 Otter Point Rd. (east side just past Helgeson Rd. ~ potential; upzoning request for 27 homes rejected by council on Dec. 10)
Sooke ~ East of Otter Point Rd.
* 22 townhouse units at Grasslands (2119 Charters Rd.)
* 75 (15 units at shelter rate, 24 affordable units and 36 near-market units) at Throup Road
* 169 (34 units at shelter rate, 52 affordable units and 83 near-market units) at northwest corner of Drennan/Sooke Rd.
* 60 more single-family homes to build-out at Woodlands Creek
* 50+ more “patio-style homes” to build-out at RiversEdge Village/Sunriver
* ? more single-family homes to build-out of Sunriver (its website references “a community of 715 homes”)
Sooke ~ West of Otter Point Rd.
* 24 (?) town homes between Brailsford and Melrick Place
* 137 single-family homes planned for the remaining phases of Viewpointe Estates
* 34 single-family homes in phase three of Stone Ridge Estates
* 22 single-family homes in phase four of Stone Ridge Estate
* 27 condos at The Residences on Sooke Harbour, 1820 Maple Ave. South
* 10 single-family homes in phase seven of Heron View
* 14-lot potential at 7057 West Coast Road
* ? single-family homes to build-out in future phases of Erinan Estates
* ? rezoning on southside of Grant Rd. west of Maple
* 11.5 cluster homes at 1923 Maple Rd. (potential; 2 homes approved on Nov. 26)
* 6 single-family homes on southside of 6000-block West Coast Road across from Sooke Harbour Resort
* Five strata homes at 5651 Woodlands Rd. (upzoned on Nov. 26 from previously permitted one home)
* 127 building sites
TOTAL: 1593 + unknown number of potential homes in existing zoning
PS Land Use Best Practices: The Union of BC Municipalities' Local Government in BC textbook identifies "the three objectives of land use regulation -- greater certainty about the future, avoiding negative external effects, and assuring adequate infrastructure for new developments -- have corresponding regulatory activities: planning, zoning and subdivision control." (pg. 156; PDF copy available).
We've got all that's required in terms of well-crafted planning, zoning and subdivision bylaws. Application is the issue. To me "greater certainty" means that a homeowner can sleep easy at night knowing that an adjoining property or one down the road won't be upzoned and that the version of the 'good life' they bought into originally won't be radically changed. Sooke Zoning Bylaw No. 600 (revised: 2013) should effectively be written in stone save for occasional common-sense revisions. But it has been amended no less than 61 times over the last five years ~ often for good reasons, I'm sure, but certainly not always in ways that are consistent with these UBCM guidelines.
More from the UBCM textbook: "The underlying assumption is that, unless adjacent land uses are controlled, undesirable external effects will abound." And this is why the Community Charter insists that rezonings undergo public hearings at which neighbours get to document these potential undesirable impacts. We need to listen to them closely and, certainly, not shame anyone with a NIMBY label.
It's also important to recognize what we've approved and where it might fit on BC Housing's continuum of housing types. Developers in Sooke have seemingly been focused on market demands for single family detached dwellings, of which there were 2,290 in the District according to the 2016 census. (FYI, we also have 350 units in five low-rise apartment buildings; 335 semi-detached homes; 245 row homes; 340 flats or apartments in duplexes; and 170 movable dwellings, i.e., mobile homes, houseboats, RVs.)
* As Todd Litman of the Victoria Transport Policy Institute pointed out in the Victoria Times Colonist this summer, there's a growing need for the "missing middle" in housing options for those who can't afford big ticket homes. Affordable, smaller-footprint homes and rentals are in demand.
* Sooke is home to a number of first-rate mobile-home parks, including Lannon Creek (Blythwood in Saseenos), Rustic Acres (off Grant and Henlyn Rds.) and Woodside Estates (adjacent to Woodside Farm on the West Coast Road). All provide affordable alternatives to traditional single-family homes in attractive settings. More please!
* Housing is dealt with in section 4.7 of the 2010 Official Community Plan (pp. 45-48). Its goals:
~ Provide a variety of housing options and densities for diverse populations;
~ Create a population that supports a range of businesses and cultural activities in the Town Centre;
~ Ensure residential development reflects the small-town character of Sooke;
~ Develop housing that has a minimal environmental footprint.
* Councillor Ebony Logins' Affordable Housing Committee is off to a strong start these last four months. District of Sooke staff produced a white paper for its first meeting in July. It included complete copies of the CRD Regional Housing Affordability Strategy (2018) and the District of Sooke Housing & Social Housing Policy (Policy #13.2, adopted Oct. 9, 2007, not available online). The latter, by the way, anticipated much slower population growth in Sooke than we're now experiencing. It projected a 2026 population of 14,730 (based on 11 percent growth between 2001 and 2006).
* Transition Sooke's Ecohome Tours have demonstrated the range of possibilities for alternative, natural (cob, straw bale, rammed earth) and micro housing. One tour highlight the last two years has been the Harmless Home, an East Sooke aerie built by local company Ridgeco Developments with revolutionary, lego-like blocks made of a durable, highly energy efficient (R-40) blend of hemp fibre and lime. Also involved with the project is Nanaimo's Jack Anderson, who is currently overseeing construction of an innovative "cluster home" development on the site of the former Quamichan Inn near Duncan that will use these same JustBiofibre blocks. Might this Calgary-based company be wooed to Sooke to start-up a Vancouver Island division? We'll need to develop light industrial land before we make the pitch, of course.
* Advocacy groups like the Tiny Home Alliance of Canada and the Tiny House Advocates of Vancouver Island are championing true alternatives for 21st-century micro lifestyles.
* Sooke PocketNews "Affordable Housing" archive
* Link to Canada's National Housing Strategy