The Sooke Lions Club will host a town hall meeting in September to convince the public that a plan to add public amenities at John Phillips Memorial Park is a good idea.
The Lions’ plan focuses on a half-acre area in the seven-hectare park.
The plan includes a community centre, daycare, clubhouse, offices, outdoor stage and concession. The Lions would lease the land from the District of Sooke.
Council agreed Monday to help the Sooke Lions Club hire a consultant and assist in hosting the town hall. Councillors also directed staff to develop a master plan for the park as part of the 2023 budget deliberations.
John Phillips Memorial Park is the second-largest park in the district, second only to the Sooke River Nature Trail.
“The proximity of the large green space just outside the town centre in a rapidly growing community is important as large tracts of land within the area decrease in availability,” states a staff report.
In 2006, the John Phillips Memorial Park Trust Committee was formed with a mandate to consult the public and develop a park plan. The process resulted in a concept plan for the park, which included plans for a community amenity building, dog park and green space.
Over the years, those plans were abandoned until last summer when the Lions stepped forward with a new project.
Last fall, voters in the district had the opportunity to participate in an alternative approval process (AAP), a method of voting that enables electors to express their opposition to a council proposal. Fewer than 10 per cent of voters registered opposition.
Although council members unanimously approved the town hall meeting on June 13, some questioned whether a master plan should precede any park development.
Councillors Tony St-Pierre and Jeff Bateman called it putting the “cart before the horse.”
“I think the process here is backwards,” St-Pierre said but added the community does need more public amenities.
“We’re fortunate that the Lions are potentially willing to put forward a project and make it happen. If that’s the way we end up going.”
Don Schaffer, interim chief administrative officer, pointed out that regardless of the outcome of the Sooke Lions Club project, a master plan is required for John Phillips park.
Mayor Maja Tait said there is still a lot to focus on in the park with a master plan, including vegetation, wildlife, the eco-system – even what kind of events should be held there.
“There are a lot of outstanding questions,” she said.