Sooke council cans community amenities contribution policy

Policy deemed too outdated and "unhelpful" for modern-day development, says council

Sooke council has repealed the district’s community amenity contribution policy following nearly a decade of debate.

The purpose of the policy was to give some predictability and certainty to the development community and to give council and staff guidance about the acquisition of amenities.

“Challenge is, the formula hasn’t worked,” said Mayor Maja Tait, who voted in unison with council last week to repeal the policy, which only added more complexity to a process that would ultimately go nowhere; and in case of a rezoning application, would trigger things like development cost charge payments.

“When you start layering on a number of different things, in addition to all the requirements to get to a rezone, then development doesn’t happen as a result, because it becomes cost-prohibitive. In the end, we have a project that’s stalled and we don’t end up receiving amenity payments anyway.”

Upon its initiation, the policy said amenities that may be included in the rezoning bylaw are parks and trail development, waterfront walkway, including a boardwalk, affordable housing, open space (in addition to statutory park dedications) day care facilities (not for profit), public art, park equipment, ALR property acquisitions, community gardens, parking structures, performing arts facility, green infrastructure, beautification projects, preservation of heritage structures, fire equipment and buildings and “other amenities with a clear community benefit.”

Still, it didn’t win any favours in its life span, neither from Sooke residents, developers, or council in recent years.

“Later when you look back, you’re like, ‘what were we thinking at the time’ and at the time, there was good consideration, but that’s where the policy is dated, it’s more than eight years old, times have changed,” Tait said. “If it’s not meeting our purpose or objectives, then it should be abandoned.”

Sooke News Mirror