The dream of building a new public library is lurching forward as lease agreement between the District of Sooke and the Vancouver Island Regional Library, along with development permits, will go to district council next week.
“We submitted the development permits to the district in June. We’re awaiting and are hopeful for approval,” David Carson, VIRL’s divisional manager of communication, said.
Sooke chief administrative officer Norm McInnis acknowledged the receipt of the permit applications and is confident things are moving quickly.
The lease agreement and the development permit will go before councillors at next Monday’s (Nov. 25) meeting.
But before the champagne corks are popped in celebration of the project, it might be helpful to review past developments in the Sooke library saga.
The project was first envisioned in 2008, and Sooke was VIRL’s first priority for a new library.
Five years passed with little action and in 2013 then mayor Wendel Milne expressed frustration Sooke had slipped to sixth on the list of priorities.
“The ground rules seem to have changed,” said Milne at a July 2013 council meeting.
Things looked up in 2015 when the Capital Regional District approved a loan of up to $6 million to build the library.
That’s the same year John Phillips Park was briefly considered as a location for the library, a concept rejected by council and residents.
In February 2016, the District of Sooke bought Lot A. The Wadams Way property was hailed as “a great fit for the new library.”
But a year later the district and VIRL announced they could not agree on who would cover the costs of clearing the Lot A land. By February 2017, VIRL was looking to SEAPARC to house the new library.
Push back from the district saw the Lot A option revived and by March 2017 VIRL announced that the new library would be built on Lot A. VIRL held the first public consultations on the building’s design.
It was also announced that VIRL had 21 months to build the library in Sooke, as the current library’s lease would come due at that time.
But another wrench was thrown in the works.
In September 2017, VIRL discovered that renovation projects at other library branches had encountered asbestos. That discovery brought all other projects to a standstill.
“We are obliged to address these issues immediately,” said Rosemary Bonanno, VIRL’s executive director, adding Sooke remained a “top priority” and reiterated the commitment to build a new library “as quickly and as efficiently as possible.”
Another year passed and in February 2018, VIRL announced there would be shovels in the ground by spring and the library would be completed a year later.
In March, VIRL upped the ante and announced construction would be finished by December 2018.
But no one seemed surprised when the timeline was amended in September with VIRL saying that they were actually aiming to submit a development permit to the municipality by the end of that month, followed by the building permit application, which will be submitted by the end of December 2018.
Nine months passed with no permit applications, but, in June 2019, Carson was back to announce that some of the fancier aspects of the library plan were going to be scrapped for budget reasons.
Now, 12 years after the first efforts to get a new Sooke library, some of the paperwork will go to council.
“This library has become almost mythical,” Coun. Jeff Bateman, Sooke’s representative on the library board , said.
“It’s been a long and winding road, but I’m confident that we’ve turned the corner. Maybe ultimately you have to ask if fast is best. This library will serve the community for the next 50 years or more.”