I attended my one and only coffee party thus far and am grateful to the hosts for inviting me. Neighbourhood coffee parties are a wonderful opportunity to meet and talk with residents person-to-person one-on-one in a congenial and informal setting.
As I continue to learn about the issues that are important to you, over and over again, I hear your passionate and genuine concern about Oak Bay and its future. As I have often said, give me passion over apathy!
As I met and talked with you over coffee, you raised some of the following issues:
- establish a heritage conservation area related to land use planning
- hire a part-time or full-time qualified Planner for Oak Bay
- provide financial support for residents’ and community associations
- establish a municipal Environmental Advisory Commission
- explore a Grants-in-Aid process to support local non-profit organizations
- research futher sewage options related to my earlier comments about smaller community treatment plants
- review and revise Oak Bay’s Official Community Plan (OCP) and Zoning Bylaw
- expand use of municipal commissions and volunteers
I am pleased to see that many of the issues you mention are topics about which I have direct knowledge, in which I have some related experience or I care about, such as:
- Oak Bay’s OCP was originally written in 1981 and underwent minor revisions in 1997 so the document is long overdue for public review and update, including Oak Bay’s Zoning bylaw. Until such a review is completed in consultation with residents, I believe that Oak Bay remains vulnerable to development/re-development that either has high impact or does not fit the character of local neighbourhoods.
- Hiring a part-time or full-time qualified Planner with all the necessary credentials is a key component of any OCP and Zoning bylaw review process.
- Establishing an Environmental Advisory Commission is critical to ongoing land use that reflects the value that Oak Bay residents place on green and blue environments and local habitat. Oak Bay residents are concerned about environmental protection and a Commission is an ideal vehicle through which the municipality can address these concerns.
- Sewage seems to be on the minds of many residents because of the provincial government’s position to mandate it for the urban Victoria core. I also understand that Uplands’ residents have concerns about sewage and stormwater and costs to fix it. I am not an engineer nor did I participate in any of the regional discussions regarding sewage. But I do sit on the Saanich Peninsula Water/Wastewater Commission that oversees the Sannich Peninsula Treatment Plant, a sub-regional system that serves three municipalities (Central Saanich, North Saanich and Sidney) and has a waste-to-energy pilot project to help heat the Panorama Recreation Centre’s swimming pool. Smaller community treatment plants could be a possible option to large sewer infrastructure that I understand is 18th Century technology and requires significant amounts of water to run.
- I believe that Community/Residents’ Associations are “grass roots” democracy at its best. These organizations provide a forum for residents to express themselves, to raise awareness through public education/information-sharing and to actively engage in community affairs.
- Grants-in-Aid are a local government funding mechanism built into the municipal budget that enables Council to make modest awards to local non-profit organizations to support their work. Local grants have particular meaning and impact during this time of shrinking provincial and federal funding. Not all municipalities have such a program but many do. Grants are awarded annually to local groups who represent a broad range of community services, from arts and culture to environmental protection and from Girl Guides and Cadet programs to local food banks, to name just a few.
Thanks to all of you who took the time to share with me your thoughts, views and ideas for the future of our Oak Bay community. What strikes me most are the many numbers of you who are involved and engaged in activities that are community-building, that truly bring us together.