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Sooke’s Church Road residents in limbo as concerns over roadwork linger

Steep driveways, blinding lights, and lack of answers plague neighbours
Mary Gerrie, shown at what used to be the front gate to her home, has issues with how work has affected her Church Road property. (Rick Stiebel/News Staff)

Residents living along Church Road are expressing growing frustration with the District of Sooke’s attempts to address concerns regarding the impact of ongoing construction on their properties.

The issues trace back to December 2023, when resident Jim Gerrie noted the onset of troubles with the installation of a new street light directly opposite their home at 2171 Church Rd.

“It’s still like a search light on our property,” said his wife, Mary Gerrie.

The couple contacted District of Sooke staff, the mayor and council on multiple occasions about the street light and other concerns during the past five months, and waiting for solutions has caused a lot of emotional stress, Mary added.

“How many people from the district does it take to change a light bulb?” Jim wondered aloud.

Another primary concern is how the road work has left the couple with a steep gravel slope several feet high that prevents them from using their front gate.

“The only response we’ve received is that they’re going to put in dirt and grass and a couple of steps by the gate, and that doesn’t address our concerns,” Jim said.

“I’m 70 and may need a wheelchair one day. Adding dirt and grass seed is not a solution, as far as we’re concerned. We need a retaining wall like the ones they put in on Charters Road, where there’s much less of a rise.”

Coun. Jeff Bateman went to the Gerries’ property on March 28. He outlined their concerns in a response to the couple and sent them to district staff.

“It seems like we had to go to the media before we got anything more than lip service,” said Jim after Mary contacted the Sooke News Mirror last week. “Going to the paper was a last resort.”

Pete Norton, who lives next door to Jim and Mary Gerrie, said the change in elevation for his driveway has left him with little room to manoeuvre his recreational trailer, and almost two feet of loose gravel has started to fall onto his lawn.

“I have a 34-foot long RV that’s 50 feet long with my tow vehicle, and getting in and out of my driveway was never a problem,” he said. “Now that they’ve reduced the turning circle, it’s a real problem getting in and out.”

Norton is also frustrated by the lack of response. More than a month ago, an engineer from the district came out to assess the situation and told her that he wanted a fill put in so he could navigate his RV in and out. Norton said she offered no solution and that she was no longer with the district.

Norton and the Gerries stressed they have no issue with Hazelwood Construction Services, the company working on Church Road.

“The problems are with the design approved by the District of Sooke,” Norton said.

Martin Trainor said the rise in the road’s elevation at his property two doors down at 2177 Church Rd. has also adversely affected his driveway.

“You can’t see what’s coming now,” he said. “Getting in and out is like running a gauntlet.”

Trainor said none of the information residents received from the district before the work started showed how significantly the elevation of their driveways would change.

In an April 19 statement to the Sooke News Mirror, the District of Sooke said that Church Road is an active construction site; the district is aware of the concerns and is addressing them.

Staff has issued a change order to install a shield on the streetlight across from the Gerries’ house to block light from their property while maintaining road lighting for traffic safety and public security.

The district is pursuing a price from Hazelwood to install two steps from the public multi-use path to the gate between the two properties, which would provide a third access point from public to private property for the Gerries. The statement said the hinges on the gate may have to be altered to open inward.

Edges of driveways were built as per the engineered drawings, with edge slopes at 2:1 (horizontal: vertical) grade. The district’s contractor has also built out their driveways beyond their existing widths to provide them with more space to get in and out. They’ve been assured that the project is incomplete, and soil and grass will be placed to further grade and stabilize the slopes.

The slope fronting the property is also installed at a 2:1 grade and will have soil and grass placed over it to stabilize it. A 2:1 slope is typical for roadsides throughout the district and conforms to the engineering drawings.

The grading of the driveways was in the original plan and is required to match the elevation of their property to public property. These notices were delivered to residents before the project began without any feedback.

“We understand they can be difficult to read, so going forward, we are looking at how this can be improved,” the statement noted.

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About the Author: Rick Stiebel

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