April 30th Special Council Meeting Highlights and More

  • Residents’ Delegation Raises Alarm About Changing Neighbourhoods

    Although not on the formal Council meeting agenda, a delegation of about 50 residents attended Chambers to protest what they believe is unchecked development in South Oak Bay, leading to the loss of older homes, streetscapes and neighbourhoods.  While Mayor and Council agreed to hear them, residents were reminded that this would be an informal meeting, without recorded minutes, as determined by legislation.  

    A number of residents spoke and expressed their sadness and anger at what they see happening around them, in their neighbourhoods and on their streets, related to new development.  The issue that seems to have galvanized them is the demolition of a Monterey St. house at the corner of the lane between Windsor and McNeill.  The house in my view had been neglected to the point where demolition was inevitable.  

    But tree-cutting by the owner (some of which was approved by the municipal arbourist because of issues related to tree health and adjacent construction) further annoyed neighbours and added to their concerns about the proposed design, sighting and mass of the new home.  

    Adjacent neighbours and residents in and around Monterey all spoke to the issues of house volume on the lot, setbacks and privacy, alterations to the natural environment and negative impacts on neighoubrs, streescape and neighbourhood character.

    Mayor Jensen and planning staff explained the limitations of legislation that restrict what Council and the Municipality can do related to land use.  In this case, the owner is asking for no variances, therefore, Council will have no input into the re-development.  Council’s only lever is zoning, where massing and volume related to square footage and lot size are dictated.

    I recognize how these residents feel about changes occurring with re-development.  As Council Liaison to the Heritage Commission, the Commission shares some of these concerns related to demolition and alterations to streetscape and neighbourhoods when houses of historical or heritage significance are threatened or torn down.

    All of this goes back to my strong belief that without an adequate planning staff and a land use vision that includes community values, including heritage planning, it is almost impossible for Oak Bay Municipality to be proactive when it comes to future re-development and land use.  

    Residents are anxious to try to stop very modern re-development, which I believe is next to impossible.  Many of them mentioned the Uplands and the provincial covenant that provides protection through the use of a Design Panel.  It was explained that this is very old legislation reluctantly introduced in 1935 and not replicated anywhere else in BC. 

    I was pleased to hear from these residents and I am hopeful that through the renewal of the Official Community Plan, some of their concerns will be addressed, such as changes to zoning that govern mass, volume and lot sizes.  

    Local governments must always try to balance the needs of the community with the rights of property owners, often a challenging balancing act I admit. In the end, it is my belief that local governments simply cannot legislate good taste.  

    • OCP Review Terms of Reference and Expression of Interest Approved with Edits

    The CAO’s report to Council on the process for review and renewal of Oak Bay’s Official Community Plan was approved in principle but will be edited by the CAO, in consultation with Councillor Pam Copley, to reflect comments by Council members.  

    I had suggestions to ensure that the language used for the terms of reference to govern and select members for the OCP Steering Committee are inclusive and designed to select people in rather than select them out, referring to the process for residents to apply to sit on the Committee.  This should be an open, transparent process from beginning to end and Council agreed.

    Stay tuned because I hope that if you are interested, you will apply to volunteer on the Committee to help guide the development of a new OCP.  

    • The YES Awards

    I attended this week’s awards’ ceremony recognizing Oak Bay youth, from grades 6 to 10, who are “exceptional stars” and young leaders in our community.  Held at the Oak Bay Rec Centre and sponsored by the Oak Bay Child and Youth Committee, the ceremony was opened by Councillor Michelle Kirby, Council Liaison to the Committee and awards were presented by Mayor Nils Jensen and Councillor Pam Copley.  

    As pointed out by many presenters and the MC, 17-year-old Logan Graham, himself an award recipient five years ago at just 13, these extraordinary young people represent the leaders of tomorrow.  Oak Bay should be proud as punch that such exceptional youth live and attend school in our community.