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Sooke Harbour: News: Sooke Pot Holes

Sooke council opposes park buy

By Robin Wark
Sooke News Mirror
May 26, 2004

Sooke council has poured some cold water on The Land Conservancy's hopes of buying the Sooke Potholes.

After listening carefully to TLC's arguments, council voted 4-3 against using any public money for the purpose of acquiring the Deertrail property for parkland.

As a result, council will circulate a letter asking government bodies to reject any TLC request for money to acquire the property on the Sooke River.

During the committee-of-the-whole meeting prior to Monday night's regular council meeting, Coun. John Farmer proposed sending letters to the Capital Regional District, B.C. Parks and the federal government.

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Farmer, Mayor Janet Evans and councillors Marcus Farmer and Lorna Barry all voted in favour, while councillors John Stephen, Tom Morino and George O'Briain opposed the move.
At committee-of-the-whole March 15, all seven members of Sooke's governing body expressed concerns about the land trust's bid to buy the property.

Those concerns included the potential of a two-per-cent tax increase to recoup lost revenue, a figure disputed by TLC.

Council was also concerned about a lack of consultation by TLC and its failure to provide more details about the organization's plans.
O'Briain said his initial concerns had been addressed, while Stephen said selling the property to TLC would save it from being purchased by someone else in the future.

"I can see far worse things facing that land than it being a park," Stephen said. "You just never know how the cards will fall. I am not prepared to take the risk of obstructing the land being acquired as park."

On council's request, TLC executive director Bill Turner and deputy director Ian Fawcett appeared Monday night. The pair argued why their plan was appropriate and the best idea for the property.

"We simply don't accept that the potholes can be protected by developing the site," Fawcett said. "The property is up for sale and somebody is going to buy it... there is nothing to stop any developer from coming on the site and dramatically changing the site."

He also argued that someone could purchase and fence it. TLC reps said they want to keep public access to the property and see no problem with keeping the campground.

However, Evans said later in the evening that the district can protect the property and also have controlled development. She emphasized it would be the type of development allowed by the current zoning and official community plan, not condos and "wall-to-wall housing."

The mayor also said there are no guarantees with TLC regarding access to the property.

Morino wondered aloud before Monday's vote if a narrow margin would send a mixed message. Evans replied she'd certainly like to go to the CRD with a unanimous vote.

The decision received a mixed response from the small crowd that sat through both meetings.
David Parsons and George Butcher spoke against the decision, with the former stating it was out of sync with the community.

However, four other men stated their support for council's resolution.

"We are not (hurting) TLC's purchase of the property, we are saying please do not use our tax dollars," said Ken Kroppmanns.

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