Sooke is planning for the future and looking for public input to determine what the community will look like over the next decade. (CTV)

Sooke is planning for the future and looking for public input to determine what the community will look like over the next decade.

Picture Sooke” is the largest and most important planning process currently being undertaken in the district. It will guide Sooke through the next 10 years of growth. 

The new official community plan will replace the previous one, which was developed more than a decade ago and doesn’t address many of the pressures the municipality faces today.

The community-driven document, once adopted in later 2021, will contain policies that dictate the way land is used and developed, including for homes, shops, offices, industry and public institutions.

Though the plan is being developed by the district and an advisory board made up of seven community members, it is relying on feedback from residents and businesses to help shape Sooke’s future.

Densification of the town core, a mix of housing and amenities for families and the protection of the waterfront and natural environment are some of the main topics residents have put forward so far.

“We’ve just grown in leaps and bounds and we’re, of course, having growing pains,” says Al Beddows, a Sooke councillor and chair of the Official Community Plan Advisory Committee.

“We need a good indication from the public of what they want their community to look like.”

District staff began the planning process in the second half of 2020, engaging public feedback with things like “community visioning sounding boards” displayed at several locations throughout the community.

There have also been stakeholder workshops with the advisory committee, as well as other initiatives seeking input from stakeholders and the public.

An official community plan is the most important tool in the municipality’s policy toolkit, according to the district. It influences the way a community grows and develops.

“As we have more people wanting to locate to Sooke and live here, we certainly have to provide amenities that are going to support their daily lives,” says Matthew Pawlow, director of planning and development for the District of Sooke.

“At the same time, we want to keep our natural character in the community,” Pawlow says. “That’s where that small town feel is a very important part of the planning process, to make sure that we can keep that moving on into the future.”

The planning committee also engaged local school students of all ages with a survey to find out what they want the community’s future to look like. Elementary students drew and coloured pictures with captions for their vision.

In the next phase of the its official community planning process, the district will be exploring three different scenarios developed based on the themes that emerged during fall consultations.

Planners want to know what residents and people who do business in Sooke like and dislike about each scenario. Opportunities to view the scenarios and provide feedback on them will be available online from Feb. 26 to March 25. There will also be pop-up sounding boards at locations throughout the community, though specific locations are still to be determined.

Once all the feedback is compiled, a rough draft of the plan will be developed by August for another round of public review. A final draft will be developed by the end of the year.

For future updates, residents can subscribe to the official community plan mailing list. You can also share comments by emailing ocp@sooke.ca.

For more information and details on upcoming meetings, visit the district’s website.