A public-interest group wants the District of Sooke to place an interim moratorium on all new development in the municipality.
Transition Sooke fears the district can’t meet its greenhouse emissions guidelines, preserve carbon capture and maintain the small-town atmosphere if growth goes unfettered.
It made a presentation to council Monday night (Dec. 13) calling for the moratorium.
“We must get creative to find ways to curb our growth, because the present path we’re on is not sustainable,” said Alan Dolan, a Transition Sooke board member.
“The population growth rate is out of control.”
Sooke is one of the fastest-growing municipalities in Canada, and the 2019 housing needs study suggests the annual growth rate is about 3.2 per cent.
The district has approved the bulk of its growth commitments to 2030. Still, Transition Sooke would like the district to freeze all new development until the official community and climate action plans are completed. It also wants zoning and building bylaws aligned to the OCP.
Dolan said the moratorium would allow properties to be bought, sold and rented in Sooke, while affordable, subsidized and non-market housing could proceed. Construction and renovation of local businesses could also continue in the town core.
The Community Charter, which provides the statutory framework for all municipalities in B.C., allows municipalities to pause development before adopting new policy or planning documents.
Councillors agreed to the “good intentions” of Transition Sooke’s proposal but fell short of endorsing it.
“I agree entirely with the intent, goal and vision, and we need to find different tools. These are not going to do it,” said Coun. Tony St. Pierre.
Councillors Ebony Logins and Al Beddows were blunter with their comments but still agreed more needs to be done to act on the climate emergency.
Council couldn’t ask people to stop working, Logins said. “I don’t think that’s appropriate,” she added.
Beddows, who focused on housing affordability, said the challenge is to balance everything else.
“My concern is, you stop development then all that will happen is that you’ll jack up house prices,” he said.