–Britt Santowski, SPN
Conversation returned to the Library again at Council, at their March 13 regular Council meeting. And on this one point, it would appear that Council unanimously agrees: Lot A was the ideal location for the new library facility in Sooke. Where it will end up being, if anywhere at all, is still currently unknown.
Councillor Kerrie Reay, who sits on the Library Board, argued that Lot A was the ideal location. SEAPARC was a good second if there needed to be one, but Lot A was the best of the two options. Council unanimously agreed, and echoed Reay’s disappointment that that option was turned down by VIRL.
Councillor Reay frustrated with VIRL’s shifting goal posts
Reay spoke to the continued frustration of working with an organization (VIRL) that is continually shifting the goal posts. She noted that when VIRL was considering buying land from the Sooke Lions a few years ago, the building had to be 10,000 square feet on one level; now that they are looking at SEAPARC, suddenly two levels are acceptable.
Reay acknowledged that VIRL’s expression of interest (EOI) requested shovel-ready land. The shovel-ready request was a VIRL wish-list item in the EOI, but according to Reay their consolidated facilities report indicated VIRL was ready to spend up to $800,000 preparing a site. Leveling and prepping Lot A fell within that, and may even be readied for less. Further, that the District purchased the land lifted the land costs from VIRL.
Again according to Reay, it was only after Sooke had purchased the land with the intent of giving that space to VIRL to build their new facilities, that the Library decided it need to be shovel ready.
That may be up for debate. According to the VIRL background (in preparation for a Saturday March 18 Board meeting copied below), “Shovel-ready land is the requirement when VIRL is given land by a member jurisdiction.”
Reay and Tait both pointed out when SEAPARC was put forward as a plan B to Lot A, that space too, wasn’t shovel ready. At the very least, the land would need to be leveled, some trees would need to be removed, and parking would need to be reconfigured. SEAPARC had indicated they they would absorb no cost if the library when there, so VIRL would still have to invest land to make it “shovel ready.”
District of Sooke pulls support for a library site at SEAPARC
A motion was made to pull the District of Sooke’s support for SEAPARC. The SEAPARC commission would then need to decide if they would continue to offer that land to VIRL, or pull it from consideration. If SEAPARC pulls it from consideration, VIRL is left to either buy their own land or to rent 5,000 sq ft retail space in Sooke, for a five year term. This type of rental may not even exist, and if it did, it would be very expensive.
Two Councillors, Pearson and Kasper, did not support the motion to pull support. Kasper felt that the District had no right dictating where any business establishes their physical location. He was also concerned that the Library would fall off VIRL’s radar (the lease for the existing building terminates shortly, and VIRL in Sooke will be without a home). Kasper and Pearson both felt that the letter from the CAO was enough; now, “let the chips fall where they may.”
The motion passed with Councillors Reay, Parkinson and Logins, and Mayor Tait in support, and Pearson and Kasper opposed.
Mike Hicks will ask SEAPARC to withdraw their offer
According to Juan de Fuca CRD Director Mike Hicks, he will take direction from Sooke Council. In speaking with SPN, Hicks said he was feeling a bit deflated. Hicks is “personally disappointed that we won’t be having the Library at SEAPARC,” but he “will follow their (Sooke Council’s) lead.”
On Thursday, Hicks will ask the SEAPARC commission to remove SEAPARC as an option for the library.
“There is no way in the world we can force Sooke to have a library where they don’t want it,” he said.
On Saturday, the VIRL Library Board will be meeting. Two options are presented to the Board for consideration (from their online agenda):
- Proceed with the SEAPARC location.
- Proceed with a retail space, with the understanding that a new branch will be
considered again at the end of the lease term.
If the SEAPARC commission decides on Thursday to remove their offer from the table, VIRL is left with but one option, #2.
“We’re at the eleventh hour,” said Hicks. The current lease on the existing Sooke Library ends on December 31, 2018. A new facility will need to start construction in June of this year to meet that timeline.
When asked if no library in Sooke is a possible outcome, Hicks replied without hesitation, “Certainly.”
What happens next is unknown.
The Library Board could be without an option, and may be looking for retail space. Finding a retail space big enough in Sooke’s town core will be challenging. The worst case scenario of not having a library in Sooke is a remote but possible outcome.
For now, all of Sooke’s elected officials would like nothing more than to see the Library be built on Lot A. Four elected officials passed the motion to pull the District’s support for a SEAPARC location; two were opposed to telling the library what they should or shouldn’t do.
Hicks, taking direction from Sooke, will ask SEAPARC to pull the offer. Then, it’s over to VIRL.
When we learn of the outcome of Saturday’s meeting, we will post an article on SPN.
- BREAKING: Sooke’s New Library lands solidly on Lot A, in the town core
- District pulls support for SEAPARC as a future Library site
- Lot A Appraisal from 2013 released by the District of Sooke
- Lot A featured big during Feb 14 Public Input session
- Sooke Mayor applauds Council for their Foresight
- New Library at SEAPARC under serious consideration
- Oops, we did it again: The District plays whack-a-mole with the Sooke Library
- Letter: Improper Council spending should not become taxpayers’ burden
- A new library is coming to Sooke
- Expression of Interest: Land Acquisition of a new library site, Sooke branch