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Sooke’s OCP highlights growth, affordability and climate action

Rough draft of the plan expected in June
Sooke staff, council and consultants working hard to draft the official community plan. (File - Sooke News Mirror)

Sooke’s new official community plan (OCP) is being compiled into a rough draft after almost a year’s worth of public input and consultation.

The top issues raised by Sooke residents include the rate of growth and development, greenhouse gas emissions and environmental targets, and regional transportation.

Coun. Al Beddows, council’s representative on the OCP committee, calls it the most important planning document Sooke will have for the next 10 years.

Creating land-use guidelines and policies that will guide the next decade is a big job, especially without a crystal ball, Beddows quipped. The project is already taking more work than allowed in the district’s budget, but he’s confident the district will complete it on time.

The climate action committee, chaired by Bernie Klassen with Coun. Jeff Bateman as council’s representative, has recommended a seven per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions every year to achieve a 50 per cent cut from 2018 levels by 2030. Council accepted that motion at its May 10 meeting.

READ MORE: MAYOR’S MESSAGE: Incredible community engagement guiding Sooke forward

The Capital Regional District calculates estimated greenhouse gas emissions for the region, and Bateman said Sooke fell short of its target to cut 33 per cent by last year.

Two impactful ways Sooke can reduce emissions are through home heating and shifting away from fossil fuel-powered vehicles.

The province’s Energy Step Code that council adopted for new buildings will incentivize builders to make more energy-efficient buildings – to reach net-zero energy codes by 2032, and they’re also advocating for PACE (property assessed clean energy) that would help homeowners retroactively upgrade energy systems by financing through property taxes.

Energy-efficient homes aren’t exactly more affordable, Beddows said. “It will make it more expensive for a house, God help us, but they’ll be efficient.”

Along with super-fast growth, land value and housing prices are rising in Sooke, making affordable housing a priority in the OCP. What kind of housing stock Sooke wants and where it will go are first answered by zoning and land-use plans.

READ MORE: Transition Sooke calls for slower growth rate

“If you don’t have housing stock here, it’s going to be a community of the very rich. We’re trying to have a community that’s open to everybody. We can’t just have the people who sold their million-dollar homes and moved here. We need young families. We need a viable community,” Beddows said.

The public will have another chance to review the plan this summer before it’s finalized. The OCP committee and city staff will get the rough draft in early June, and Beddows expects it will still need a lot of work to get it ready for council and the public. The new OCP is expected to be adopted in full by the end of the year.

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