The North Sooke Community Association, comosed of residents with properties along Sooke Road, have sent a detailed letter to Premier John Horgan outlining a series of concerns regarding the proposed expansion of Highway 14.
The move comes with the group’s appearance at an April 8 Sooke council meeting where its presentation led to a sometimes impassioned discussion of the issue.
At the meeting, it was learned neither Mayor Maja Tait nor the council had been consulted in any meaningful manner by the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure.
Despite the impact of the highway’s redevelopment on the community, the municipality is not a funding partner in the work and has little control over what happens on the roadway.
The letter from the community association to the premier, who is also the MLA for the region, points out that residents are strongly supportive of the “long outstanding improvements to Hwy. 14 for the clear purposes of improving safety,” but raises a dozen concerns about the concept and the process that the association says will see some residents giving up a part of their property and others losing their home.
The letter also questioned why Sooke officials had not been more involved in the process.
At a news scrum on Thursday at the B.C. legislature, Horgan remained unapologetic about both the concept and the process.
“I think it’s appropriate that we contact the property owners first. Before you lay out the plan to the public and they (the property owners) find out in the newspaper, I would prefer that someone knock on my door and say, ‘I don’t know if you’re aware of this, but you have been living on the highway; a highway that everyone wants fixed,’” said Horgan when asked why local officials have had only limited involvement.
“Sooke council had the opportunity to come to the public meetings,” he added.
Horgan said he has heard for a long time from the mayor and council that the road needed to be fixed, and while he is sympathetic with property owners, “you have to break an egg to make an omelette.”
He added that there are only so many places where where an expansion by widening the roadway can take place.
Tait responded to the premier’s comments by pointing out that she had been at the public meetings to which he referred, but hadn’t been aware of the full scope or pace of the current plans.
“This is really between the province, and the residents as this is provincial infrastructure and it’s really up to them,” Tait said.
Eric Boucher, the head of the North Sooke Community Association, said ministry staff have started meeting with residents about purchase and expropriation plans.