March 5 Committee of the Whole (COW) Highlights

  • Council Isn’t Chicken About Coops

COW received a staff report outlining proposed amendments to the Animal Control Bylaw related to chicken coops.  This item was before us earlier this year and we asked for a staff report addressing parcel size, setbacks on back lanes and reduction of other setbacks to accommodate residents who want to keep chickens (hens only).  Staff examined practices in Saanich and suggested that some of their policies might be applicable in Oak Bay.  I voted with Council members to approve and refer suggested amendments to the next Council meeting.

  • “Generating” Noise

COW received a staff report proposing amendments to zoning and anti-noise bylaws to allow homeowners to run generators during an emergency (power outage).  I voted with Council members to approve directing staff to draft bylaw amendments that will allow proposed changes to accommodate home generators. Council members asked questions related to noise, fuel storage and pattern/frequency of previous complaints, all of which I understand will be considered when amendments are drafted.

  • Uplands Design Guidelines Reviewed

In early January, Council requested that the Advisory Design Panel be invited to a COW meeting to talk about a possible review of Uplands Design Guidelines, to address concerns by some Uplands residents about the size, site lines and mass of new homes built near and now overlooking the east side of Uplands Park.  As a result, the Panel met in February to review and discuss Uplands Design Guidelines, making five recommendations that include — preliminary consultation between owner and the Panel of proposed development, provision of general landscaping plans and view studies included in a development application for properties visible from Uplands Park.  

Staff also made supplementary recommendations, generating a lengthy discussion at this week’s COW meeting about Uplands history, the intent of the original developer to create Uplands as a “residential park” and the need to examine bylaws and current provincial legislation that govern development in the Uplands.  

Staff and the Design Panel will continue consultation, exploring a variety of useful ideas about how to address the preservation of Uplands without compromising individual property rights.  I asked if Uplands residents generally are concerned about the nature of current development in an area that is unique in the region.  We agreed that there is need for further work and clarity on many of these issues and I understand that staff will develop an updated development application process for the Uplands, after further consultation with the Design Panel and residents.

  • “Focus” on Oak Bay Lodge Public Consultation

Residents, adjacent neighbours, the developer and other stakeholders listened to the COW discussion about the latest progress on the revised Oak Bay Lodge proposal.  Focus Coporation, hired by Baptist Housing to conduct the public consultation process, submitted to the COW its report outlining its plans for community engagement over the next 4 weeks.  There were some hiccups in the report, many of which were pointed out by Council members, staff and residents.

From my perspective, missing from the report was a plan to actually meet at the neighbourhood level, face to face, with Oak Bay residents and participate in a genuine and meaningful dialogue about the proposal.  In my experience, small neighbourhood meetings provide an opportunity for two-way communication, where residents can ask questions, provide input and feel heard.  

While there are other consultation methods outlined in the Focus report, such as two community display sessions, a mail-out card (required by the Local Government Act), an online webpage designed to provide input/solicit comments and local newpaper advertising, an open dialogue with all residents, especially for those that live adjacent to Oak Bay Lodge, did not seem to be included as part of Focus’ proposed public consultation model.  I pointed out that if public consultation is not done correctly, it is the one thing that comes back to bite.

Additional to concerns expressed by Council members and the public, the April 10th timeline to complete consultations and submit a report to Council was also a problem, as noted by Chief Administrative Officer Mark Brennan.

In the end, Focus Corporation was asked to go back and revise their public consultation approach, to include consideration of the above-noted points.