It has been a year of transition for me and an illustration of remarkable resilience for Oak Bay. Adapting to change is an important skill that I acquired many years ago and believe me, it has served me well, particularly this year. I have also continued to learn about my community and its ability to engage.
And engagement starts with our many volunteers, of whom I cannot say enough, such dedicated individuals who serve this community with tireless energy and passion. They share a common bond, the desire to make a difference and contribute to the wonderful quality of life we enjoy in Oak Bay. They are the real heroes and represent a cross-section of our community — young and not so young, men and women, boys and girls — they are represented on municipal committees and commissions and are from our schools, our local organizations and our business community, and many are just ordinary Oak Bay residents who do extraordinary things that benefit us all. I am grateful for their community support.
The municipality also experienced significant changes in leadership this year, reflecting endings but also new beginnings. In March, with the departure of then CAO Mark Brennan, interim veteran CAO Gary Nason arrived and did a superlative job of sustaining the organization and assisting Mayor and Council. In April, award-winning planner Hope Burns joined the municipality and was contracted to assist with the OCP renewal project and the Clive proposal. With Gary Nason’s departure in November, our new permanent CAO Helen Koning arrived.
We also said good bye to long time Fire Chief Gerry Adams who retired and also welcomed his successor, former Deputy Fire Chief Dave Cockle. As this year closes, we say good bye to another community leader, Chief Constable Mark Fisher, who leaves Oak Bay in February to become an RCMP Superintendent as Commander of the Nanaimo Detachment, the largest on Vancouver Island.
While these changes no doubt created challenges for municipal administration, all staff worked through the changes, rarely complained and adopted a “business as usual” approach to serving Oak Bay. I am grateful to staff for their continued support and assistance and I look forward to working with them again in 2014.
Two of the largest projects for Oak Bay continued to move ahead — the renewal of the Official Community Plan, with Open Houses in May and June, and the re-development of Oak Bay High School, with a groundbreaking in July. In the fall, an OCP community survey questionnaire was shared with all households in Oak Bay and results were released at our last Council meeting of the year, when consultant Catherine Berris made a presentation to the Official Community Plan Advisory Committee and to Mayor and Council. Two more open houses are scheduled in early spring. The Committee, chaired by Councillor Pam Copley, is an example of another remarkable volunteer effort.
A new municipal committee, Chaired by Councillor Kevin Murdoch, was also struck to address the controversy around floor area ratio (FAR) provisions for renovation and new home construction. Concerns by residents about large buildings on small lots prompted this review and the year ended with two open houses that invited professionals and Oak Bay residents to participate in discussion. The FAR committee’s work continues into the new year.
This past year was not without controversy. The Clive re-development project created angst among some residents as Council attempted to facilitate as much public input and scrutiny as possible. Hope Burns, qualified planner, was hired to assist with this application given its major land use implications. A final decision about the Clive will be made following a public hearing in the new year but, given recent results from the OCP community survey, it seems clear that new rental housing in Oak Bay near the Village and on a major transportation corridor, fits with the community’s desire for more housing options in designated locations.
Wildlife management also created some conflict with Oak Bay Council’s decision to participate in the CRD’s Deer Management Program. Part of the program includes a cull of 25 animals. As you know, I did not support the option that the Council majority voted on, preferring a third option that would enable Oak Bay to still participate in the program but also have more control over its implementation and continue to receive community input relevant to Oak Bay’s specific needs in dealing with urban deer. Time will tell about how the program unfolds and what other methods to effectively manage the deer problem will emerge, such as public education, the use of fencing and repellents and implementation of signage and other traffic controls. This is a complex issue that has no simple solution but the health and safety of our community remain paramount.
I continued to serve Oak Bay as Council Liaison to Oak Bay Heritage and Culture, as member of the Official Community Plan Advisory Committee, as member of the CRD Arts Committee, as Director the Greater Victoria Labour Relations Association and as Director of the Royal McPherson Theatre Society. I also attended numerous events throughout Oak Bay and the Region, representing Oak Bay Council.
In December, the Mayor made his annual Council assignments to various local and regional committees and I am privileged to be serving on behalf of Oak Bay in 2014, the following:
- Heritage and Culture – Oak Bay Heritage Commission, Foundation and Archives
- Uplands Building Permits Subcommittee
- Capital Regional District Arts Committee
- Greater Victoria Labour Relations Association
- Alternate to Oak Bay Business Improvement Association
- Regional Housing Trust Fund Commission
- Royal McPherson Theatres Society
I will also be Acting Mayor for January and July and promise not to “break a leg!”
I hope that I have not missed anyone in this annual review and I will submit a detailed report to Council in January 2014 on the past year’s activities related to my work as Council Liaison.
In closing, I want to express my deep appreciation to you, the residents of Oak Bay, who supported me throughout the past year. I hope that I was and continue to be approachable, accessible and accountable, some of my core values as a Council member. We may not always agree but disagreement exemplifies this wonderful democracy we live in, one that provides us with the ability to share and respect different opinions, different ideas and different views of the world.
As I look forward to celebrating the Holiday Season with family and friends, I wish all of you and yours a peaceful, joyous and safe Christmas Holiday and a healthy and Happy New Year. I look forward to working on your behalf in 2014 and as I close, I leave you with the following quote:
“True leaders do not create followers, they create more leaders. “
All the best for 2014!