- Oak Bay Parks and Recreation Commission
A report by the Urban Forest Strategy working group was presented and briefly discussed before a deferral was made to the last quarter of this year, for further deliberation and adoption as a Council strategic priority. Gary Nason, Interim CAO, recommended deferral to later this year given that the report’s recommendations involve additional budgetary and staffing resources. I supported the deferral but also acknowledged the preservation of our Oak Bay tree canopies as a significant public concern. The working group put many hours and much effort into their report that focuses on:
- conservation of existing treed environments
- enhancing the future of the urban forests
- increase community understanding and support
The group has recommended that the municipality engages a consultant to continue this work, as well as retention of the group to serve as an advisory body. I asked that the report not only be posted on the municipal website but also shared with the Oak Bay Green Committee and the municipality’s Environment Committee. This report represents a significant body of work and I want to thank the working group, chaired by Commission member Rick Marshall, for its due diligence.
On a different note, the Commission also reported out in its minutes, plans to install a public washroom facility at Lafayette Park, near McNeill Bay. The Oak Bay Rotary Club is involved in fund-raising for the facility and I fully support this plan. I also asked if alternative installations could be explored, such as use of composting and/or solar-powered technologies and Director Ray Herman agreed that he would put this idea forward to the Commission.
- Land Use Applications
The remainder of the agenda was all about land use, with a dozen items, most of which were moved to the next Council meeting, as recommended by the Director of Planning and Building.
Some items caught my attention and I followed up with questions:
- Carlton House plans to expand the coffee shop that fronts Oak Bay Avenue. I asked about the plan for a lower patio, citing my concern about access for those with mobility issues. I was assured that, in fact, changes will increase mobility from the street and open up the coffee shop to passers-by (moved to Council).
- Plans to increase apartment rentals at Beach Drive by two suites required more information. I asked about “affordability” and the size of the new units — how were rents defined as “affordable” compared with the market? Other Council members had questions related to on site parking, the viability of a housing agreement to restrict cars and other concerns (deferred to another Committee of the Whole meeting for further information).
- A staff report recommended to deny an application to build a new home on Central Ave. I understand that there is a practice in Oak Bay to deny applications for new homes if they require variances. I stated what I saw as the irony in this case, that this new home was what so many Oak Bay residents say they want to see built. It is in the much-loved classic “arts and craft” style (not a square box with a flat roof), is just about 2,200 sq. ft. (not a monster) and provides a distinct improvement to the property, designed with adjacent neighbours in mind. I voted with Committee to move this application forward despite the staff report, given that I believe it will be an asset to the neighbourhood.
- Plans for a new home on Beach Drive in the Uplands were deferred, pending a site visit by Council members. A variety of concerns were expressed by the adjacent neighbour and by some Council members, related to size, massing and sighting. It should be noted however that the staff report recommended moving it forward, the Uplands Design Panel approved the plans and no variances are requested.
- After the June 24th Council meeting, OB Council reverts to its summer schedule of two meetings in July and two meetings in August. Please visit the municipal website for details. I will also post next week the dates and times.
- June 26 is the opening ceremony of the Henderson Rec Centre expansion. Please contact the Oak Bay Rec Centre for details.