Sooke Harbour: News:
Sooke Pot Holes
Sooke, TLC at odds over potholes
Victoria Weekend Edition
March 12, 2004
A B.C. land trust needs to raise $3.5
million to purchase the troubled Deertrail property.
The Land Conservancy (TLC) wants to
prevent development on the 63-hectare Deertrail lands, which includes
sections of the Sooke Potholes, bordering three kilometres of the
“It’s a treasure,” said TLC executive
director Bill Turner.
The long, narrow reach of land, within
the District of Sooke’s boundaries, would be added to TLC’s Sea to Sea
Greenbelt, linking the east to west sides of the Island.
But Sooke’s mayor is seeing red, not
green over Monday’s announcement.
“God damn them anyhow,” Janet Evans
“How much more land do they need?”
Evans was shocked by TLC’s plans, but
what incensed her most was that the municipality could lose two per
cent of its tax base if the Deertrail land is left undeveloped. Last
year, however, registered owner Deertrail Development failed to pay
$105,072 in property taxes, representing three years of taxes.
“We don’t get a cent if it becomes a
park,” Evans said.
Turner confidently stated that economic
benefits would be derived from tourists and employees, even if no tax
The existing Deertrail campground would
likely remain, Turner added. “It makes sense.”
And TLC has plans to make the Sooke
Potholes on Deertrail’s property into a world class destination park.
Turner said he would like to see a
partnership between the District of Sooke, Capital Regional District
and the province to strengthen the site and improve access.
But Evans doesn’t think the
Victoria-based TLC needs more parkland.
TLC acquired the Ayum Creek lands and in
the process removed potential development lands, Evans added.
“We don’t need the TLC telling us how to
protect the river,” she said. “Enough is enough.”
The municipality was hoping that in
conjunction with eventual development, substantial parkland would
still be gifted to Sooke, Evans added.
Turner pointed out that the District of
Sooke still has a lot of space to construct homes, in reference to the
700-plus home Sunriver Estates development, also bordering the
sensitive Sooke River.
The property in question has five
different mortgage holders, according to District of Sooke’s director
of finance Laurie Hurst. After the property tax went unpaid last year,
the mortgage was foreclosed and a court-ordered sale followed.
And there have been other Deertrail
creditors, including a Brentwood Bay contractor owed $117,430 in 2002
and the Workers’ Compensation Board on the hook for $18,082 last year.
In 1981, Victorian Albert Yuen bought
the land with plans to build a resort. Two years later he got a
$1.5-million provincial grant.
Yuen refused to comment about the latest
developments. His daughter said they knew nothing.
The heavily timbered lodge, the first
step of Yuen’s resort, still sits unfinished overlooking the Sooke
River, just beyond Sooke Potholes Provincial Park. The 20-year-old
structure will likely be removed because it’s in bad shape, Turner
By 1999, Yuen proposed a media village
which would have included high-tech film production and a destination
resort with 1,300 hotel units and a spa. The land got unique zoning —
Destination Resort and Media Village — to accommodate the ambitious
Turner said there’s a reason Yuen’s
visions never came to fruition. The rocky, riverside land, and the
rough terrain beyond, are not suited to development. It’s better left
The land will have to be rezoned to be
used for a park. District of Sooke assistant planner Sabina FooFat
said the closest zoning the municipality has is P1, which is public
recreation zone. That designation allows such facilities as public
parks, playgrounds, golf courses, campgrounds and outdoor amusements.
New owners could ask the B.C. Assessment
Authority to reassess the land based on its new use as parkland. The
District of Sooke would then have to base its taxes on the
© Copyright 2004 Victoria Weekend Edition