The Official Community Plan (OCP) draft moved to the next stage after a marathon session at Monday night’s Council meeting, ending at midnight. I voted with Council (it was unanimous) to move the document ahead after Catherine Berris, consultant, made a comprehensive presentation to Council, followed by questions and a discussion at the Council table.
Following feedback from residents at the last community Open House on May 31st, input from municipal commissions and committees, feedback from the Official Community Plan Advisory Committee (chaired by Councillor Pam Copley, with myself and Councillor John Herbert as Council representatives working with staff and six highly skilled and engaged volunteers), comments were summarized and changes were highlighted that will be incorporated into the final draft for the next Council meeting on June 23rd, when Council will debate first and second reading. Two important changes were made as a result of all recent feedback, especially from the Open House:
- The growth projection for Oak Bay, appearing at 1% in the existing draft, was deleted and is now projected at 0.5%, consistent with Oak Bay’s existing OCP and with the CRD’s projection for Oak Bay, contained in the Regional Growth Strategy.
- A map, appended to the existing draft called the G Map, raised concerns among many residents. The map illustrated in yellow the areas that could be considered by future Councils for infill and greater density. This type of mapping is a legal requirement for all OCPs under the Local Government Act. As a result, the G map will be replaced and clarifying language will accompany a new map to ensure that residents fully understand that it is a planning tool, not a development tool.
To the second bullet, it is important to know that the map does not signal greater infill and density in these areas. It simply means that these are the areas where infill and density could occur but will be carefully managed through planning and a review of Oak Bay’s zoning bylaw, the next body of work that will be undertaken by a new Mayor and Council if the new OCP is adopted in the fall. In fact, we know that infill and density are already occurring in some neighbourhoods, with the demolition of smaller older homes and construction of new homes. This process has been ongoing in Oak Bay for a number of years and is a legitimate concern of many residents.
In my experience, I know that the combination of a new OCP and a new qualified planner on staff (approved in the last budget), will give our community greater certainty and control over planning and development. Until now, Oak Bay has largely relied on the Councils of the day and on spot zoning to manage development, without an overall community plan and context. You will recall that I repeated in the last election that without this combination, Oak Bay remains vulnerable to unplanned development.
It is unfortunate that recent public commentary has used what I believe is some loaded language, with the apparent intention perhaps to frighten residents and destabilize the OCP renewal process; this does little to intelligently inform ongoing discussion about Oak Bay’s future. It also fails to mention the significant legal, fiscal, social and environmental topics addressed by the new OCP draft, such as:
- Climate change.
- Urban agriculture.
- Protection of Oak Bay’s natural environment (including shoreline/foreshore, natural and green spaces, parks and trails).
- Housing options that include regulated suites, town homes and duplexes and housing for people with disabilities and other special needs (the latter is now mandated by the Local Government Act for inclusion in OCPs).
- Protection of established neighbourhoods and heritage preservation.
The OCP renewal process has helped to highlight Local Government Act requirements, for updated best practices and for long term community planning in a variety of OCP areas, to ensure that the Oak Bay we know and love will be preserved and enhanced over time.
- Oak Bay Theatre Building Gets Facelift
After a special Heritage Commission meeting to consider a request from the owners of the Oak Bay Theatre building, to make substantial repairs to the front of the building and to replace windows, I voted with Council to approve the alterations with the blessing of the Heritage Commission. The owners and Commission members have also agreed to work together on selection of paint colours as the project unfolds. I want to commend the Commission for moving quickly on this referral and the owners for their cooperation and willingness to work together with Commission members. The owners are concerned about the building’s integrity and safety if the work is not started this summer.
June 17, 2014 at 7:00 PM – Committee of the Whole in Council Chambers