- Mayor’s Annual Message Emphasizes Volunteerism
The Mayor opened the meeting with an annual message, highlighting achievements of the past year. In a nutshell, the year kicked off with the creation of a variety of committees and working groups, staffed by community volunteers, to help support planned changes identified during and after the last municipal election.Council-supported and community-driven initiatives include community engagement (opening up Council procedures, neighbourhood meetings etc.), a new website, transportation, the environment, archives and heritage planning, Bowker Creek re-development, tourism and improvements to the Council chamber that bring Oak Bay into the digital age. We also celebrated the opening of the new Oak Bay Beach Hotel, a long-awaited project that brings new vitality to our local tourism and business sectors. In 2013, we will see construction begin on the new Oak Bay High School re-development, a new urban forest initiative introduced and the first draft of a new OCP completed by the end of the year. A new committee on Floor Area Ration (FAR) will be created to address the issues of land use and massing, a new Heritage Plan will be completed in the spring and the future of Oak Bay Lodge will be the subject of new discussions between Oak Bay and VIHA. I happen to agree with Mayor Jensen that this Council’s first year has been a busy one, with slow but steady improvement as to how we communicate with and engage our community in local government. You will recall during the last municipal election that I often pointed to community engagement as the key to making better decisions — a year later, it is still the most important factor to me in doing this job well. I believe that this Council is making more informed decisions because it has a better understanding and knowledge of our Oak Bay community. I am also personally grateful to the municipal staff who have helped me to adjust to this first year as Council member in Oak Bay. And I have a Christmas wish as 2012 draws to a close — I hope that we will hire part-time qualified planning expertise so that land use decisions are made in a broader context, that we can adequately and sensitively address re-development and that we can clearly articulate, on behalf of residents and taxpayers, a direction for intelligent land use. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of the residents and volunteers who help to make this a warm, welcoming and vibrant community. I look forward to working with all of you next year as, together, we continue to build Oak Bay for the future.
- Municipal Treasurer’s Report Generates Tax Talk
The 2013 provisional budget was presented to Council and suggests a tax increase of just over 5%. This generated discussion among Council members who admit this is too high and that an increase more consistent with previous years should be considered, once we commence budget estimates’ debate in the new year and hear from all the departments on what potential cuts will mean to programs and services. The possibility of capping a tax increase at a prescribed level was mentioned but no decision was reached on the wisdom of that approach. Stay tuned…
- Oak Bay Tea Party
In 2013, Oak Bay Tea Party organizers will trial run extended hours for the midway in an effort to draw more pre-teens to the event. Council unanimously approved the request, with conditions, and I expressed concerns about additional policing costs to oversee weekend activities and the potential for greater noise to impact adjacent neighbourhoods. In response, we were assured by Mr. Murphy-Dyson (Tea Party Chair) that all contingencies are covered, that the midway company has provided superlative service in the past and that trial hours will be carefully scrutinized and evaluated to inform planning for 2014.
- 1510 Clive Drive Proposal Referred to Committee of the Whole
I supported a unanimous motion to move to a Committee of the Whole meeting, a development proposal for re-development of the old Clive Drive apartment building at the corner of Clive and Oak Bay Avenue. I did so for a number of reasons but, underlying my decision, is my awareness that Committee of the Whole is the first opportunity the public has for input on such applications — without qualified planning expertise, the next best thing to making informed decisions is to know and understand how the community feels about applications of this nature.This proposal is a quality development that, if eventually supported by the community and Council, will be the first “LEEDS standard” building in Oak Bay. The following are other reasons why I believe the proposal warrants further Council and public consideration:
Retains and enhances rental housing stock in Oak Bay, adding three times the units the existing Clive building provides.
Does not depart from existing multiple dwelling use designation.
Utilizes a major transportation corridor and is within walking distance of all major services and amenities.
Proposes a live/work component for units fronting the avenue that will attract younger people and families, as well as boost local business activity and economic development on Oak Bay Avenue.
Improves and enhances the existing site and ensures that pedestrians interact with the building.
Is the result of extensive consultation with all adjacent neighbours, including Ottavio.
Is consistent with streetscape and surrounding residential buildings fronting Oak Bay Avenue.
Marks the first time in nearly four decades new rental housing has been built in Oak Bay and in the region.
The current proposal would require zoning variances and an OCP amendment to accommodate proposed setbacks, three storeys, more rental units and parking. I will be interested in what you have to say when the proposal is presented at a Committee of the Whole meeting early in the New Year. Stay tuned…
- Heritage Milestone
Council approved placement on the Heritage Register of two Oak Bay houses following a recommendation from the Heritage Commission, accompanied by Statements of Significance. One of the homes is especially significant for all of us involved with Oak Bay Heritage — it is the home of the late Gwen Ewan, former Vice-Chair of the Heritage Commissiona and a well-loved and deeply committed community volunteer who is greatly missed. Before Gwen died this past August, she had put the wheels in motion to have her small 1930’s bungalow registered on the Oak Bay Heritage Register. Sadly, she died before she could complete the process.Following Gwen’s death, Heritage Commission Chair Pat Wilson and members decided to complete the process posthumously, knowing what this meant to Gwen. My heartfelt thanks to the Heritage Commission and to the Executor of Gwen’s estate, who agreed to finish all the paperwork. It was a poignant moment for me last night when Council unanimously approved the Commission’s recommendation.