The District of Metchosin is set to decide whether to rezone a lot on Sooke Road to a rural business park, a move which opponents say could dramatically change the face of the community.
If the application is approved, half of the 52-hectare lot at 3659 Sooke Rd. would become home to small businesses, office space and some light manufacturing operations including computer, electronics and green technology manufacturing companies.
The other half would be protected green space. The property owner, Tri-X Group, has also proposed donating $1 million to the District of Metchosin for environmental initiatives.
Rezoning for any industrial development on the lot requires a review of Metchosin’s official community plan, a decision passed at council’s Oct. 25 meeting.
No date has been set for that discussion. The development proposal was first discussed by council in July, when the district directed the owners to gather public input.
The property has attracted controversy in the past.
In 2017, Tri-X was fined for several bylaw infractions for unpermitted burning of materials on the property. Company spokesperson Rachel Sansom noted the current owner, Brian Baker, only bought shares in Tri-X in 2018.
In 2019, an application was made to have a small section of the lot rezoned for industrial purposes, so a soil recycling business could be operated, but the application was withdrawn after outcry from residents.
“It became apparent through that process that a permanent rezoning of the lands would provide the District with more long-term benefits,” Sansom said in an email.
Jay Shukin, president of the Association for the Protection of Rural Metchosin, says he’s not heard any resident support for the current application, adding the development would threaten the rural nature of Metchosin.
Shukin is also skeptical of the landowner’s offer to donate a $1 million.
“We should not be induced to change our official community plan, our land-use bylaw merely by the presence of a million dollars,” he said, calling a rezoning “a gift to the landowner.”
Sherry Hurst, planning consultant with the District of Metchosin, said in an email the district would consider how to spend the money if the rezoning gets approved. The district has not done an assessment of the potential increase to the tax base, she added.
The lot is also situated on Aquifer 606 – an important water source in the region, which advocates say could be depleted with further development in the area and without proper monitoring of water levels.
Sansom said the company hired a hydrologist to advise on how to mitigate impacts to the aquifer, adding that businesses there should be drawing equal to or less water than is currently allowed for residential-zoned properties.
If the rezoning were approved, Sansom said design and construction would happen over several years.