Issues of development and green space dominated a civic election forum on Saturday at Edward Milne Community School in Sooke.
Both mayoral and council candidates took the stage in front of an auditorium audience of more than 200 people during the two-hour event organized by the Sooke Region Chamber of Commerce and EMCS Society.
Mayoral candidates Mick Rhodes and Maja Tait were front in centre, allowing one hour to debate issues by delivering opening and closing statements and answering questions from the moderator and audience. The third mayoral candidate, John Knops, did not attend the event.
Council candidates were allowed two minutes each to present their platforms in the second hour.
The issue of development and expanding green space occurred multiple times during the afternoon.
Incumbent Mayor Tait spoke about the concerns of residents.
“These are real concerns. The council hears them, and we know that we need to improve the infrastructure,” she said.
“The challenge we have to improve it, drive it, and use it, all at the same time. How do you fix a road and drive on it at the same time? It’s not an easy thing to do.”
Retiree Mick Rhodes, who placed third to Tait in the civic election four years ago, said decisions in the past had changed the character of Sooke to its detriment
“The mayor needs to be held accountable on many issues,” he said.
“There’s been poor decision-making in the past decade, and now we’re paying for it.”
Rhodes, who worked as a journalist and community advocate, pitched the idea of a waterfront park in Sooke that could include a land swap between a developer and the District of Sooke for Lot A on Wadams Way.
Seacliff Properties has applied for a development permit for 98 residential units and more than 16,000 square feet of commercial space at the Harbourview site at the intersection of Goodmere and Sooke roads.
“There is a world of possibilities that the DOS can tap into and create a waterfront park,” Rhodes said.
Tait said her platform includes bringing people and ideas together.
“People ask me what are our (council’s) priorities,” she said.
“It isn’t about me, but what we create together. In the end, I hope to be standing alongside six other individuals who have amazing and incredible ideas for the future of our town.”
A meeting video is available on the Sooke Region Chamber of Commerce website.
On Sunday, Sooke voters had a second opportunity to ask questions directly to candidates during a meet-and-greet hosted by Transition Sooke at the Sooke Community Hall.