Plans to build a community centre at John Phillips Memorial Park are not being received well by some Sooke residents.
The Sooke Lions Club proposes to build a two-storey multi-use building on the site, including a community centre, daycare, clubhouse, offices, and concession on the south end of the park. The club also hopes to construct an outdoor stage in the future.
The first significant development in the park since the district acquired the land in 2005 also requires the Lions club to enter into a 50-year lease, including two 25-year options to renew, with the municipality.
The district has identified the need for community amenities at the park. Those amenities ranged from a dog park to a community centre following public consultation and the release of a vision document in 2006.
The district is proceeding with a legislative process, called the alternative approval process, which is considered a means of testing the waters on a topic or proposal, allowing council to get a sense of the community’s opinion. It would not ratify the Lions proposal.
But a new organization called the Sooke On Fire Taxpayer Group had taken exception to the project since it was proposed by the Sooke Lions Club last month and is hoping to rally residents to stop it by filling out an alternative approval process form and submitting it to the District of Sooke by Sept. 15.
Because John Phillips Memorial Park is a dedicated parkland, council cannot ratify a lease without the approval of electors.
Sooke On Fire Taxpayer Group, with a membership of six people, was formed to oppose the park plan, said William Wallace, the group’s spokesperson.
“Sooke council’s recent decision to give the Sooke Lions Club two acres of public parkland in the centre of our town for a private clubhouse shows a disregard for residents,” said Wallace. His group is demanding more public consultation.
The 2020 parks and trails master plan calls for a John Phillips Memorial Park master plan.
“Out of the blue, with no debate, no needs assessment, no public review, no proposed lease agreement, no sketches, no architectural renderings, no financial studies, and no road accesses, the District of Sooke agrees to allow a huge private clubhouse with enormous parking lots and a lease that lasts 100 years,” he said.
When the vision document for John Phillips Memorial Park, Tait said there was community consultation, and a committee was formed to make recommendations to council. Those recommendations were accepted by council.
“The Lions club proposal fits with the vision that has been accepted over the years – that’s why we continue to support it,” Tait said.
Wallace said his group doesn’t oppose the Sooke Lions Club’s desire for a new facility, but John Phillips Memorial Park is the wrong location.
“Using our limited city centre parkland for their clubhouse is wrong. With acres of undeveloped land in urban Sooke, there are many other choices for the location of the clubhouse, including the construction of clubhouse for all service clubs on the existing service club land on Murray Road,” he said.
Tait said the development of John Phillips Memorial Park is integral to the development of the town core as it will improve accessibility, especially with the construction of the new library, housing developments and the future home of the elders centre.
“The zoning is already in place for the park and falls in line with the parks and trails master plan and the official community plan,” she said.
The Sooke On Fire Taxpayer Group plans a rally at the park on Sept.4, beginning at noon.