- All Charged Up and Ready to Go
I voted with Council to support a request from the Municipal Treasurer to provide early approval of the purchase of a double charging station for installation at Municipal Hall. Early approval was requested due to a tight timeline to receive a grant that covers 75% of the cost but means that the charging station must be installed no later than March 31, 2013. Installation of this technology marks a significant step to reach our goal to be a regional leader in the use of “green” technology and I was pleased to support this request.
- Newly Minted MP
Murray Rankin, Victoria’s new MP replacing Denise Savoie, attended our Council meeting and shared with us some of his goals for the future. Council members and the public were invited to ask questions of the MP. I asked what he will do to support development and implementation of a National Housing Strategy. You may recall that a number of years ago, City of Victoria Councillor and Chair at the time of CRD’s Capital Regional Housing Corporation Board, Councillor Charlayne Thornton-Joe, requested regional support of Bill C-400, a private member’s Bill introduced by NDP MP Libbie Davies, calling for a national housing strategy to address homelessness and housing affordability. There was good local support from this region but, unfortunately, the Bill was never adopted. Our MP assures us that he will pursue this again and indicates his support of implementation of a National Housing Strategy.
- Free WiFi Comes to Oak Bay
I supported a motion to adopt a staff recommendation to implement free WiFi services to the public in four specific access points, at Municipal Hall, the Rec Centre, Henderson and Monterey. The provider is Shaw Cable and the municipality will enter into a time-limited agreement with them to provide the service through our infrastructure. The municipality will assess the service agreement in five years’ time, while continuing to develop future options that might also include Telus.
- Clive Drive Proposal
As you are aware, a development proposal for the Clive apartments at the corner of Clive Drive and Oak Bay Ave., was first presented to Council late last year. At that time, I supported a motion to move the matter to a Committee of the Whole meeting, primarily because I believe that the public, Clive Dr. residents and other Oak Bay residents need an opportunity to further consider and voice their opinions to Council on what has become a controversial proposal.
In addition to hearing from residents and neighbours at our meeting, I received 22 individual letters and/or e-mail messages expressing and identifying a variety of concerns and key points about the current proposal. Of the 22, six were strongly opposed to the proposal, full stop. The rest were conciliatory in nature, stating that while they supported re-development on the site, the existing proposal contained serious shortcomings including inadequate on site parking, large massing too large for the lot, inadequate setbacks, disrupted view corridor and potential blasting, all of which neighbours believe would negatively impact them and traffic. Others cited the importance of supporting the existing OCP and waiting to accept proposals until after completion of the new OCP, anticipated in 2014.
I also believe that once again, our difficulty in addressing major land use decisions is because we simply do not have the qualfied planning expertise to guide us. I again called for a qualified planner to assist us. Current planning staff do the best they can to accommodate development applications but, in my view, the municipality lacks greater vision and context for planning and re-development. A new OCP is not a panacea and successful implementation will need a planning department that has a qualfied urban planner on staff to anchor the new document.
Back to Clive. It was good to hear directly from residents about their concerns. I was criticized earlier when I stated some of the positive aspects of this proposal, perceived at the time as my tacit approval. This perception is unfortunate and incorrect.
Yes, I believe there are positive aspects to this proposal and that the developer has made a sincere effort to work with the community. The only forum in which to hear from the public at this stage is to move the matter forward to Committee of the Whole. That’s what we did and from my perspective, it was the right thing for Council to do. Furthermore, it resulted in a unique outcome.
I supported a motion to further defer this proposal to a future Committee of the Whole meeting, until a group of neighbours, led by Clive Dr. resident Angus Matthews, can engage with the developer as part of what Mr. Matthews describes as the “Clive Consensus.” This is truly “grass roots” democracy working at the neighbourhood level to resolve differences. If this model is successful, regardless of the outcome of the project, Mr. Matthews and his neighbours will have demonstrated that conflict can be addressed through cooperation and collaboration.
I applaud the residents and the developer for their willingness to engage with each other. They may not be able to resolve the issues but at least they are talking to one another. There may also be too many hurdles related to the size of this project that the developer cannot reasonably and financially remove, but how else will we know and understand what our community needs and wants, if not by sitting down and talking to one other? Thank you to all of you who attended the meeting and who will be part of the public engagement process on the Clive.