Otter Point & Shirley Residents & Ratepayers Association


Information Meeting

Held on Tuesday, June 18, 2002

At the Otter Point Fire Hall, 3727 Otter Point Road at 7:30 p.m.


Present:            Ken Pungente (President), Arnie Campbell (Vice President),

Manfred Maurus, Mitch Moneo, Wendy Miller, Wendy Morton

Absent:            Lorraine Simrose, Byron Tweedy

Public:            Approximately 20


1.      Introduction


The President welcomed those in attendance and began by introducing the Executive members and thanking Laurie Eberhardt for calling the membership. 


2.      OPSRRA Websitc


The President advised that a website is close to being launched.  The website was produced by two EMCS students requiring community hours for graduation.  The membership will be notified when the website is launched.  The website includes information on the boundary restructuring study, the regional growth strategy study, past meetings, the organization in general and membership information. 


3.      Regional Growth Strategy


The President read from the Regional Growth Strategy:


“In 1998 the Capital Regional District Board adopted the frame work for our future agreement that set out a regional vision derived from the goals of local official community plans and the regional green blue spaces strategy.  Key elements of this vision is to enhance social well being and regional quality of life.”


The report defines community growth including green spaces and heavy growth.  The strategy recommends that growth remain within urban areas.  Subsequently, the document has been changed.  The District of Sooke does not have to define its urban containment boundary for two years after its official community plan is adopted.  The Regional Director has asked for the same provision.  This provision is an issue as it does not define housing or development density.     


Currently, the community has a local area plan which defines growth in the area.  The LAP was an addendum to the old official community plan of Sooke.  However, now that Sooke is a municipality, the community’s LAP must become an official community plan.  This process will begin early next year.  To begin this process, the community will elect an advisory planning commission in November.  This commission will be responsible for making recommendations to the Regional Director regarding land issues.  It has been reported that the ACP may sit on the commission that oversees the development of the OCP. 


4.      Boundary Extension Study


The President reported that Bruce Lemire-Elrose (Otter Point), Arnie Campbell (Otter Point), Sue Smee (Shirley), Ron Burnett (Shirley), and Mike Conlin (Port Renfrew) are the  far west representatives on the boundary extension steering committee.  Initially, the study began as an exclusively Sooke study.  The following was reported by consultant, Tom Reid, at the first two meetings of the boundary extension committee:  


·        that East Sooke is not an asset to Sooke as it does not generate a great amount of tax money as it has a small population, very little industrial land and a huge road system.

·        that Otter Point to Jordan River is an asset as it has a large amount of class seven crown land which generates three times the amount of residential taxes.

·        that, if the Otter Point to Jordan River amalgamated with the District of Sooke, the tax gain would make up for the short fall of East Sooke. 

·        that the land from Jordan River to Port Renfrew is not an asset as it consists of only 10% of class seven crown land.


Since these two initial meetings the study has expanded to include the Electoral Area.  The committee’s terms of reference has not changed with expansion.  In response, OPSRRA has sent letters to the chair of the committee, Marcus Farmer.


One of the items discussed by the committee has been the vote.  The vote by the residents of Sooke and the residents of the Electoral Area was initially planned for November.  However, upon recommendation by Council, the residents of Sooke will vote in November followed by a single vote by Electoral Area residents.  The Electoral Area vote will not be divided by individual community. East Sooke, Otter Point, Shirley, Jordan River and Port Renfrew will vote at the same time.  This has raised some concern.  Another concern is the exclusion of Port Renfrew in the event that the District only wishes to extend its boundary to Jordan River.


There are a couple of reasons why the District may only wish to extend its boundary to Jordan River including the low tax base and the highway.  There is a possibility that the highway may become the responsibility of the municipality.  It is felt that, if the boundary is not extended to include Port Renfrew, this small long standing viable community will be left to its own resources.  It is felt that if the District wishes to amalgamate, it should amalgamate with the whole area. 


The Vice President reported on the current status of the study from OPSRRA’s perspective.  OPSRRA has compiled a list of fourteen issues that it would like to see addressed in the study process.


1)      Referendum on restructure:


The Local Government Act allows the Minister to make the final decision regarding amalgamation.  This decision can be made without a referendum.  Since the start of the process, OPSRRA has pushed for a referendum.  The President and Vice President have made presentations to the MLA, the CRD and Sooke Council and has received assurance that the process will go to referendum.  Sooke is expected to go to referendum in November if it is in favour of amalgamation.  The Electoral Area is expected to go to referendum in February 2003.  


2)      Boundary to include whole communities:


Some concern had been raised at previous meetings regarding the boundary extension not including whole districts.  The consultant has advised that there are amalgamation guidelines which include ensuring that boundaries include whole communities. 


3)      Boundary expansion to take “all of us or none of us” (i.e.: Otter Point to Port Renfrew):


It is felt that if the boundary is to fall west of Sooke, it should fall all the way to Port Renfrew.  It is felt that excluding Port Renfrew is wrong.  Exclusion would go against the governance recommendations of the Ben Marr report.  There are five boundary options currently being looked at by Sooke.  Only two of the options include Port Renfrew. 


4)      Public input on recommendations to committee:


Public hearings are planned for every community.  Committee meetings are public and input from the floor is welcomed.  Minutes from these meetings are posted on the District of Sooke website.


5)      Democratic decision making process:


Although the steering committee is large, everyone on the committee is given an opportunity to speak.  It is felt that the process is democratic. 


6)      CRD staff presence on the committee:


OPSRRA requested the presence of a CRD staff member as the District’s City Administrator is in attendance at the meetings.  Ken Cossey is now sitting on behalf of the CRD. 




7)      Terms of reference for committee:


Since the expansion of the committee, OPSRRA has requested clarification of the terms of reference for the committee.  The western representatives will be meeting to discuss the terms of reference.


8)      Revised plan for rural area from the consultant:


With the expansion of the committee, a request for funding for a study for the Electoral Area was submitted to the Province on May 14. Public meetings account for 70% of the budget. A reply has yet to be received.


9)      Separate vote for “East” and “West” areas:


Assuming that Sooke wishes to extend its boundary, OPSRRA is lobbying for a separate vote for East Sooke.   The consultant is recommending one vote for all areas.  The consultant has reported that separating the vote would invalidate Sooke’s referendum as the residents of Sooke would have based the vote on expanding eastward and westward. 


10)   Elected APC by area:


There currently is an elected APC is East Sooke.  For consistency, the Regional Director has requested an APC for Port Renfrew and Otter Point/Shirley.  Sooke does not have an elected APC.  Otter Point/Shirley will be electing a five member ACP in November.   Concern has been raised regarding dissolution of the ACP structure upon amalgamation.  There has been discussion regarding establishing the ACP structure into the Letters Patent.  This ensures the ACP structure until such time Council requests an amendment to the Letters Patent. This would give Electoral Area residents a forum to control land use issues. 


The community will elect five candidates to sit on the ACP in November.  If five individuals do not stand, the Regional Director will appoint the remaining members.  The elected ACP will make recommendations to the Regional Director on such issues as zoning, land use and the containment boundary.  As well, the ACP will sit on a larger committee to look at the review of the Local Area Plan.  The review of the  LAP is expected to begin March 2003 regardless of amalgamation.    


11)   Area Representation:


In November 2002 the residents of Sooke will vote for a mayor and six councilors.  Electoral Area residents will vote for a Regional Director in the same month.  If there is a vote for amalgamation, Electoral Area residents will vote for two East Sooke councilors and two West Sooke councilors in early 2003.  This would be a transitional council.  In 2005 the council would consist of a mayor and two councilors at large, four councilors from within the current Sooke boundary, two councilors from East Sooke and two councilors from West Sooke.  It has been proposed that council representation in 2008  could consist entirely of councilors at large. 


It was questioned if the 2005 model could be instituted for the 2003 vote.  It was explained that Sooke is obligated to vote for a new council in November.  The council structure can not be determined until East and West Sooke vote. 


12)   Allocation of tax money from the forest lands north of Otter Point and Shirley:


The consultant examined the residential tax rate, the commercial tax rate and the forestry tax rate.  Ninety percent of the million dollar revenue that is generated annually comes from class seven forestry land that lays north of Otter Point to Lake Cowichan westward to Jordan River.  OPSRRA has asked the consultant to determine where this annual revenue is being allocated. 


13)    Information mailer to be impartial and equal:


The consultant will be issuing circulars to Electoral Area residents.  OPSRRA has requested that the public circulars be impartial and include both the pros and cons of amalgamation.


14)    Retention of fire trustees and volunteer fire departments:


The Local Government Act requires fire trustees and volunteer fire departments be absorbed into Sooke fire department.  Discussions have ensued regarding placing the fire trustees in an advisory capacity under Letters Patent. 


At this time, the Chair accepted questions from the floor.


Director Morton noted that, if amalgamation proceeds, it will not be a matter of what West and East Sooke wants as the Sooke councilors will have the majority.  


A resident asked if council has the authority to override OCPs.  The President advised that APCs frequently approve rezoning applications.


Director Moneo noted that, if East Sooke and West Sooke vote as a single group, the votes from one community have the potential to cause the other community to be drawn into amalgamation.  Director Moneo questioned the reasoning behind East Sooke and West Sooke voting as a single group as the proposed ward system allows East Sooke residents to elect East Sooke councilors and Otter Point residents to elect Otter Point councilors.  It was questioned why an individual vote is not being extended to each community  as the distinctness of each community will be recognized under the proposed ward system.


Committee member, Sue Smee, stated that the combined vote makes sense as it may determine the way residents vote.  For example, if the vote was separate, an East Sooke resident may not vote for amalgamation if it is possible that the Otter Point tax base may not included in the resulting expanded district.     


Committee member, Bruce Lemire-Elrose, congratulated Vice President Campbell on his clear and accurate presentation of the fourteen issues.  It was noted that OPSRRA is presenting conflicting statements in regards to its “take all of us or none of us” sentiment and its request for each region to have separate vote.  In consideration of Otter Point and Shirley’s voter population, it is felt that votes from East Sooke westward to Port Renfrew should not cause such concern. It was also noted that a report has been submitted to the committee and the District of Sooke Administer regarding fire district concerns.  It is the most critical vote determining issue as the fire departments are held in such high esteem.  Some consideration has been given to establishing an outside independent fire advisory to meet with each department regarding amalgamation concerns.  It is expected that this process would not be pursued until after amalgamation due to associated expenses.  Nonetheless, the committee will pursue the need for all departments to come together prior to the vote to resolve upon an agreed process on how the fire department amalgamation should take place.


A query was made as to council representation.  It was explained that the number of councilors for each region was based on the last census’s population figures.  The Regional Growth Strategy proposes a bylaw that would restrict growth in Otter Point to 5%; Sooke’s growth would be unrestricted.  After the implementation, the newly amalgamated communities would have two years to determine how rural or urban the area would be. 


Susan Issac questioned the costliness of dismantling and replacing the fire departments with paid staff.  Bruce Lemire-Elrose advised that the fire departments would remain largely volunteer.  The President noted that Sooke’s fire department consists of paid staff although it was anticipated that it would remain volunteer based upon incorporation. 


A resident questioned if there had been any discussion on how amalgamation would affect the water districts and water trustees.  It was explained that the water districts were brought up at the last committee meeting. Water districts in the community include Kemp Lake, Shirley, French Beach and East Sooke.  Prior to the committee’s expansion, it was explained that the municipality would assume administration of the water improvement districts.  It is felt that the volunteer trustees should remain in an advisory capacity.  


Compared to the greater benefit of self determination, a resident asked what benefits amalgamation would provide.  It was explained that the benefits have yet to be determined and, although the Ben Marr report provided the option of remaining status quo, the option of amalgamating with Sooke and the option of becoming a separate municipality, the Province has only endorsed the first two options.  It is unknown if the third option would become available if there was a vote against amalgamation.


Although the community has a Regional Director, the community is not self governing as the land use committee governing the area consists of representatives from the five neighboring municipalities. The proposed council structure indicates that the community would have a greater say within the Sooke system. 


The Vice President stated that more information is required regarding the affect of remaining status quo including the costs of maintaining CRD services.  It was noted that policing costs will increase regardless as the Province will be reducing police subsidizes.  The committee rural representatives will be requesting answers to these questions from the consultant and the CRD prior to the vote. 


Susan Issac asked if any consideration has been given to having the 2005 - 2008 council configuration come into effect in 2005 rather than implementing the transitional council configuration in 2003. It was explained that this has yet to be discussed.  It was noted that once the votes happen amalgamation and implementation of an expanded council may not be immediate as there is a period of negotiation and Provincial review.


Harry Crooks asked if there has been any discussions regarding joining Cowichan.  It was advised that, as far as it is known, this option has not been examined. 


   In closing, the President advised that in all likelihood there would be no public   

   committee meetings until the Fall.  OPSRRA will continue to hold information sessions.  


   Sue Smee advised that the next committee meeting is July 11. 


  The meeting adjourned.