April 16th Committee of the Whole Highlights

  • Municipal Treasurer’s Monthly Financial Reports

A monthly financial report prepared by Patricia Walker, Treasurer, was recieved and approved by Council without many questions.  As usual, the Treasurer prepares a detailed report and summary that keeps Council apprised of allocations, expenditures and revenues.  Having just completed our Budget Estimates process, the report was clear and supports budgetary conclusions and decisions made earlier this month.

  • Parks and Rec Commission Meeting Minutes

The April 4th minutes of the Parks and Rec Commission were received and approved after minor questions from some Council members.  The Commission has an ambitious agenda and works hard to ensure that programs, services and the budget are constantly balanced against community needs.

  • Heritage Issue Resolved

An earlier recommendation from the Heritage Commission supporting a property owner’s request to have his home removed from the Heritage Register was reluctantly approved by Council after input from the Chair of the Heritage Commission and a background explanation from me as Council Liaison.  The Commission’s decision and recommendation came in March following a lengthy discussion about the owner’s request.  

The owner argued that Heritage Registration was an impediment to the sale of his property, reportedly listed on MLS for an amount exceeding $8M.  But the apparent lack of process and the owner’s contention that the registration occurred without his knowledge, placed the Commission and, potentially the municipality, in an awkward position.  

To avoid a “he said/she said” scenario and what could become an acrimonious situation if the owner’s request was denied, Council on balance was persuaded to approve the property’s removal from the Register.  Councillor Copley, a well known Heritage professional and advocate, voted against the recommendation, a position that both the Commission Chair and myself respect. 

It was made clear by the Commission Chair, however, that this was an anomaly and not intended to send the wrong message about Oak Bay Heritage preservation.  In fact, the Mayor and Councillor Copley asked for further research from the Commission on whether or not Heritage Registration negatively impacts marketability, supported by earlier information, indicating that registered Oak Bay properties have indeed sold at increased values.

In my view, (one shared by others) this situation points to the overriding need for an Oak Bay Heritage Strategic Plan and well defined processes and procedures related to the Heritage Register and to the community value of Heritage in Oak Bay. The Commission will be focused on such important work for the balance of this year.

  • Development  Variance Applications

A variety of development variance applications for home construction or improvements were approved in principle and referred to the next Council meeting to complete the process of notification, etc.  Two of the applications illustrated the positive benefits of neighbourhood outreach, where the owners took the time to share and consult with their neighbours about their plans.  I was impressed with their efforts and encourage all applicants to undertake this kind of due diligence.

  • Oak Bay Lodge Update

The Oak Bay Lodge proposal took another step when Council directed staff to continue to work with Focus Consulting and return a report to the next Council meeting on April 23 that will outline a public consultation model related to height and parking variances.  Council also heard from local residents and Baptist Housing.

Focus reiterated Council’s position, a difficult one given that we are legally bound by the Local Government Act on how next to proceed.  The two variances for height and parking are the only issues we can consider, based on the legal restrictions of the development variance permit application process.  

While Focus also outlined a model for a Local Area Plan (LAP), it was suggested that this model could not be applied to this situation because of legal requirements related to the existing application process.

Residents were then asked to comment and they raised the following:

  • Public consultation insufficient; what more can be brought to the table given that the material issues remain the same?
  • Not opposed to this proposal but there must be a compromise.
  • Use of the facility is not the issue, except as it relates to increased traffic and parking; we all have a role to play in the process to ensure that Council is provided with sufficient information.
  • Need for quality building drawings and modeling to adequately demonstrate mass and sighting.
  • Support for an LAP; inadequate information-sharing and communication with residents, placing a burden on the neighbourhood to engage others.
  • Residents are not NIMBYs and want a new care facility but parking and access for emergency vehicles, particularly in an area of two school zones, are big issues.
  • How can we decide on this proposal when we have not completed an Official Community Plan renewal and therefore do not have a clear community vision to accommodate this proposal.
  • Why have a bylaw if variances can be considered and granted?
  • Keep consultation and communication fair and above board.
  • What about density? 

Mayor Jensen did a good job of managing this feedback and addressing with staff the above-noted questions and comments.  I was impressed by all parties and members of the public who were reasonable and respectful during these exchanges.

The matter will be back before us on April 23, accompanied by a report from Focus Consulting on next steps for further public consultation.  Stay tuned…

  • OCP Renewal Report Discussed

Councillor Pam Copley took questions from Council members on the results of the OCP Review Working Group Report, submitted at the last Council meeting. Feedback was generally very positive and Chief Administrative Officer Mark Brennan will now prepare a report and terms of reference to support the report’s recommendation for an Advisory Committee to guide this work. I understand that the first phase of the OCP renewal process is scheduled to be completed by next year.