Third may be the charm for Sooke council as councillors push to finalize the official community plan (OCP) before this fall’s municipal election.
Councillors will get another chance to review the document at a meeting next month before sending it for second reading and a possible public hearing.
But time is running out: the election is on Oct. 15.
The special council meeting would be the third for the plan, which has come under scrutiny by developers, community associations and environmental groups on issues ranging from housing, foreshore setback, parkland and zoning designations.
“We’re given a chance to have one more meeting, and if we don’t have it, there’s a missed opportunity,” said Coun. Jeff Bateman.
The lengthy document for guiding planning and land use management in Sooke was first shown to the public last April.
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Council, staff and committee volunteers have been working on the plan for 21 months, bringing in more than 2,500 pieces of public input and hosting two open houses. Still, some council members – including Mayor Maja Tait – are concerned with the lack of public consultation, hampered by provincial health restrictions and the pandemic.
The OCP placed high strategic priority on council when elected in 2018, and at least one councillor wants to push the plan through to completion before the election.
“There have been no major changes to the OCP in the first two sessions, except some minor wordsmithing,” said Coun. Al Beddows, council’s designate on the OCP committee.
“I’m not sure what we’re trying to accomplish other than stall to get it to the next election, which I think is the wrong thing to do.”
The land-use committee has brought issues forward recently on development permits and other issues. Council also received questions and recommendations from community groups and former Coun. Kevin Pearson.
“We’ve had hundreds and hundreds of people respond, and now we’re catering to a few. There has to be an end game here,” Beddows said.
Interim chief administrative officer Don Schaffer told the council on June 27 that there is limited time before the election, and staff availability is questionable over the summer due to summer vacations. The last scheduled regular council meeting is on Oct. 3.
In a report to council, staff recommended pausing further OCP meetings until after the election or continuing discussions between July and September.
Once council is finished with the OCP, a public hearing is held. The OCP is then sent to the Capital Regional District for review before final adoption.
“The issue right now is that we’re running out of time and the ability of our staff to meet and do the things we expect them to do,” Tait said.