In a move that threatens to shutter a long-time business, Sooke council has denied a request to issue a temporary use permit for Driver’s Welding at 5536 Sooke Rd.
The decision could result in enforcement action by the district, and force the business to close
“I’m numb at this point,” said Driver, after the decision.
“I’m going to need some time to look at my options. Right now, I just can’t comment.”
Council denied Driver’s application due to lack of information.
Over a two-month period, municipal staff requested a rainwater management plan, a landscape estimate for the remediation of Ayum Creek which runs past his property, and a height verification of buildings on the property.
Appearing at council, Driver said he did not have time to collect the information, and asked for more time.
“This was not fun. It was the most gut-wrenching decision I’ve had to make on council,” said Coun Al Beddows adding his decision was influenced by his belief some of the uses listed on Driver’s application were not historically what had been happening on the property.
Beddows also referred to the environmental concerns related to Ayum Creek.
“The tide has changed and the environmental concerns related to the salmon stream have become more important,” he said.
Beddows said while he’s aware that shutting down Driver’s business could lead to job losses in the community and regrets that outcome, he had to consider those impacts as “collateral damage.”
The two dissenting votes on the issue, Coun. Jeff Bateman and Coun.Megan McMath did not share the majority opinion to deny the permit.
“I wanted to see a scenario that would allow him to continue into next year. I especially thought his (antique) car lot was a cool thing,” Bateman said.
McMath agreed and said she didn’t want to see the business go.
“I voted to give him more time. This is a long-running issue and we should have found a way to have him stay,” she said.
The long-running issue was noted in an administrative report to council citing events dating back to 2002. But the issue seemed at least partially resolved last January when council passed a bylaw to allow for temporary use permits for historic non-conforming non-residential uses in the Gateway Residential area, including Driver’s business.
It was noted at the time that it was possible the new official community plan could allow Driver’s Welding to be an acceptable use in the area.
But the new OCP is still two years off, Beddows said, and under the new rules, Driver still needs to apply for a variance permit and meet all the requirements of the bylaw.
Derek Lewers, a next-door neighbor of Driver, who has appeared repeatedly to speak in opposition to the welding business, spoke at length at the meeting as well.
He praised municipal staff for its report and the recommendation to deny the application, saying “it almost feels like I had a hand in writing it.”
As to what will happen next, there is no clear path forward.
“This is now a legal matter and the staff report will be considered in-camera before anything happens,” said Norm McInnis, the district’s chief administrative officer.
” It won’t be a swift process. It’s going to take some time before this is all over.”