After hearing from over 25 speakers at last night’s Public Hearing on Oak Bay’s new Official Community Plan draft, and following clarification from staff that led to minor amendments based on key questions and points made by residents who spoke during the hearing, the Official Community Plan was adopted in a unanimous vote by Council. The Hearing wound down at about 9:30 PM, earlier than I had anticipated.
Density, infill housing, monster houses, parking problems, increases in crime and more pollution highlighted the concerns of those speakers who seem worried about future growth of Oak Bay’s population. “We don’t want another Vancouver!” one speaker said. Others supported the Plan’s vision of greater housing options for residents who want to age in place, with concepts of “home care and home share” that would enable families and older residents to remain in their homes and community.
One speaker expressed concern that her street “is shrinking.” She said less than half of the original population who lived on her street 100 years ago exist now, citing the loss of big families who lived in big houses. “Of the sixteen homes on my part of the street, with big lots that housed big families, nine of these homes are now occupied by older couples with no children.” She concluded by saying, “I don’t want to live in a museum,” citing the need for modest population growth (900 people over the next 10 years) that encourages new families and more diversity.
One important factor about the new OCP — it is a fundamental policy framework, a road map that sets the community’s course for the future. As the CRD Board of Directors pointed out at its meeting last week when they approved our draft, Oak Bay joins the rest of the region as a municipality with a contemporary vision of its future.
Our new OCP will address such important goals as building a complete community, keeping human settlement compact, providing transportation alternatives, dealing with climate change, creating housing diversity, meeting infrastructure needs and enhancing environmental protection, the latter being particularly important in Oak Bay given our extraordinary natural landscapes. Protection of green space is essential to our values.
The next huge body of work that will require further significant community consultation is the implementation stage of the Plan, when we will work together on to create a housing strategy and review and revise our zoning bylaw for consistency with the new OCP. This work will begin with a new Mayor and Council following the November election.
In a note today to the volunteers of the Official Community Plan Advisory Committee, of which I was a member, I said: “Nothing left to say but a huge thank you to all of you. I have never before worked with such a skilled and dedicated group of volunteers. You took a complex and challenging project, kept it on track and made a long lasting contribution to Oak Bay that will carry on for years to come. Knowing that you were a key part [of the process] is something of which you should be very proud.”