With a packed house and standing room only, I attended last night’s Oak Bay Council meeting about the proposed Oak Bay Lodge development. The meeting was a sequel to the October 3rd Council meeting when I understand that the applicants (Baptist Housing, VIHA and the CRD) heard specific concerns from adjacent neighbours about the proposed size and height of the new Lodge.
After the October 3rd Council meeting, the applicants re-visited the site and presented last night the following major changes to the proposal that they believe will help mitigate neighbourhood concerns:
- Rotate the wings inward and moved the building north.
- Close entry off Cranmore.
- Reduce building height by 1m.
- Improve landscaping and public space.
A number of residents spoke openly in response to these proposed changes and to their other concerns that included the following:
- They are NOT against seniors’ care in their neighbourhood.
- Major concerns are parking and height.
- Lack of “sincere and meaningful consultation” between the Council, developer and community.
- Need to retain “campus of care” approach to on site seniors’ services/programs.
- Proposal is too big for the property, which is roughly a fifth the size of Windsor Park.
- Increased beds and reduced parking a recipe for traffic issues on Cadboro Bay Rd. and side streets.
- Tight timeline is artificial and has been imposed on the municipality by the applicants simply because of funding considerations (apparently applicants must have a decision from Council my mid-November to meet a funding deadline).
- Municipality should not be in the business of securing financial support for developers or letting a business plan overtake quality of life decisions.
- Increase of 40 beds will not be for Oak Bay residents but will be part of VIHA’s total Vancouver Island stock.
- There are other options that can be explored within a more realistic timeline that involves consultation with the larger community.
What I believe makes this issue even more difficult is that the proposal also includes broader community goals such as:
- Keeping the land in public hands.
- Keeping seniors’ care available in Oak Bay.
Council members agreed that there are still outstanding questions about this proposal. For instance, they had asked for a traffic management study and for a physical model of the proposal but none has yet been received.
In their defense, Baptist Housing points out that they have a 30-year history of being a good neighbour and providing seniors’ care in Oak Bay, that their care model reflects “best practices,” and that with this proposal, they will be providing complex care on land that will stay in the public domain. They also point out that funding for this proposal related to the number of beds is tied to the Saanich Mt. View development of approximately 260 beds.
Council ultimately voted to defer their decision on the two variances (height and parking) pending more direct and meaningful consultation between the applicants and adjacent neighbours.
My understanding is that, at the present time, the applicants will return to Council on October 24th with their application and the results of neighbourhood consultation. Indications last night are that a Council decision on the two variances could be made by mid-November.