Here is a copy of a Letter to the Editor that appeared this week in both the Times Colonist and Oak Bay News. Councillor Tara Ney and I believe that background information leading to our decisions about the Oak Bay Lodge was skewed. In view of recent media reports and letters on the subject since June 27th when Council made its decision, it was time to clarify why we voted against the requested variances.
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Difficult Decision on a Complex Issue
Recent letters critical of our decision to deny the Oak Bay Lodge re-development proposal suggest that Oak Bay does not want to play its part in providing regional care beds for seniors. This assumption is misinformed and does a disservice to the residents of Oak Bay and to those of us on Oak Bay Council who voted against the variances. We found this one of the most challenging decisions in recent memory.
One of the main factors that influenced our decision was the planning report, paid for by the applicant and prepared by Focus Consulting—the results of which have been overlooked by letter writers and media reports.
The report presents compelling information critical of the Oak Bay Lodge proposal, concluding that it represented “a system failure” from a community planning perspective, and stating, “communities must develop and grow in a collaborative environment rather than reviewing single structures in isolation.”
We relied heavily on this report for two reasons: local Council members do not have planning expertise; and, Oak Bay Municipality has no qualified planner on staff.
At no time did VIHA, the CRD or Baptist Housing collaborate with the community at large in planning this proposal; decisions were made and presented to municipal council and the community as a fait accompli.
The Focus Report also suggested that the proposal was fraught with challenges and had potentially significant negative impacts on the neighbourhood. We also listened to the results of public feedback, as, the majority of opinion agreed with the Focus Report, that this proposal did “not lend itself to the character of the community and did not fit with the surrounding neighbourhood…”
Oak Bay not only wants to provide quality public seniors’ care but also wants to work with VIHA and directly with seniors who we believe should have a voice in planning their future. We believe that we can do better than the “one size fits all” approach recently presented to us.
Cairine Green and Tara Ney, Municipal Councillors, Oak Bay