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Sooke Harbour: News: Borrowing Referendum

Supporters: Projects will beautify, make Sooke a safer place

By Robin Wark
Sooke News Mirror
January 19, 2005

David Mallett can see Sooke's potential. The bed and breakfast owner and others urging a "yes" vote in Saturday's referendum on borrowing for road projects envision an enhanced downtown with landscaped boulevards, better sidewalks and more street lights. Mallett, the chair of the Road to YES Committee, wants to see a beautified village core that more reflects the natural setting of the community.

Sooke and Church Road intersection

Mallett believes tourists and current residents will benefit from the Highway 14 upgrades. Sooke Mayor Janet Evans agrees.

"It is about making this a nice place to visit, to work and to shop," she said.

Mallett and his committee believe the upgrades are supported by the community. The concerns he is hearing about Saturday's referendum relate to phase one of the parallel connector. But, Evans said the two projects are tied together and that is why there is one question on the ballot asking for elector assent to borrow $2.6 million. Polls are open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday at the Edward Milne community school.

Correspondence from the Ministry of Transportation to the district advises the highway upgrades are not supported without the parallel connector as alone they do not alleviate traffic congestion. The connector would provide an alternate route to get traffic to where it is going, Evans said, and is not a bypass. A five-lane cross section in downtown Sooke has been suggested, but Evans said in the past it has not been supported by council and the public.

Some have expressed concerns about the connector because the route puts traffic onto Throup Road near Journey middle school, Ecole Poirier elementary, the Sooke Sk8 Park and Art Morris Park.

"We don't believe it is going to affect or endanger children," Mallett said. "We believe the alternate route will enhance safety by providing proper sidewalks."

Mallett also pointed to a pair of Church Road developments that have received third reading. Combined the Totangi and Worthington property projects would provide another road access as well as a trail to Ecole Poirier. This would help keep children off Throup Road, Mallett said, who also noted the commuter and school traffic will not be on the road at the same time.

The district received Canada-B.C. Infrastructure Program grants for the two projects. For Highway 14 upgrades, Sooke received $1,933,332 and is looking to borrow $1 million. Sooke's share for the connector is $1.6 million after receiving a grant of $1,882,000. Evans, Malahat-Juan de Fuca MLA Brian Kerr and Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca Keith Martin have all emphasized other communities are clamouring for this cash and it could go to them if these projects don't proceed.

"If we wait another three years, it is going to be more money and it is going to be 100 per cent," Evans said, alluding to the grants covering about two-thirds of eligible costs and Sooke waiting since 2001 when it applied for the funding.

According to newsletters produced by the district, the projects would cause a maximum tax increase of $56.62, based on the average home assessment of $187,000. Sooke administrator Peter Jmaeff said this is based on 2004 assessments. In order to calculate your bill using 2005 assessments, Jmaeff said divide your assessment by 1,000 and multiply it by 0.24. For a home assessed at $200,000, this would mean an increase of $48.

The calculation is based on the borrowed money being paid back over 20 years. Jmaeff said council has yet to direct staff whether the term will be for 15 or 20 years.

The connector project includes a new two-lane road complete with sidewalk, curb and gutter, from the gazetted Gatewood Road (located halfway between Pyrite and Otter Point Roads) to Church Road, near Throup Road. The Highway 14 project will upgrade two km of the road from just west of Atherley Close to Charters Road. It includes sidewalks on both sides, widening to allow for left turn lanes, curb and gutter, a median, 75 more streetlights and a traffic light at Sooke and Charters Road.

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