Priority. The natural (trees, foreshore, parks, etc) and built heritage of Oak Bay are key factors that make our community so attractive and livable. They are precious and we must do what we can to care for them.
Action 1. Create a Heritage Conversion Bylaw and promote Heritage Revitalization Agreements (HRA) to convert older homes to rental or condo housing stock and support neighbourhoods to develop Heritage Conservation Areas. We also want to continue to support the Heritage Commission who educate the community about heritage landmarks and encourage increased heritage designations.
Action 2. Support the implementation of the Urban Forest Strategy and strengthen the Tree Bylaw to sustain replacement of trees on public and private lands.
In Oak Bay we need to renew our participation infrastructure to recognize citizen capacity and our collective problem-solving potential. This means that we need to support regular opportunities for people to connect with each other, solve problems, make decisions, and celebrate our community. And this is for all kinds of people and all kinds of matters. Let’s change the culture of engagement in Oak Bay!
There are a host of new processes, formats and structures for engaging our public— face-to-face deliberations, convenient digital tools, and online networks can add dexterity to the power of face-to-face relationships.
In July 2018 Council received the The Public Engagement Task Force Report (which I
Chaired) that provides a framework, as well as themes, methods and techniques to engage our community. There are also 56 recommendations (see pp. 6-10) and the next Council will work with staff to identify and prioritize some strategies to create a robust engagement infrastructure in Oak Bay.
What might this look like for Oak Bay? Here’s some ideas that can be found in the Report:
- Introduce “Council Highlights” to communicate the decisions of Council within 72 hours of meeting
- Invest in the website to make it more intuitive and information-search friendly.
- Introduce a household electronic and/or print newsletter.
- Increase use of social media, including visuals and paid or promoted ads, to highlight upcoming meetings, events, and surveys
- Revise notification requirements, such as “tree removal” signage, demolition notifications, street and sidewalk permits, event notifications, and development permits.
- Consider online application tracking or Placespeak-type subscriber notification system for land-use applications in Oak Bay.
- Neighborhood conversations on high impact topics.
- Clarify expectations for third parties (e.g. property developers, private contractors, event organizers) for public notification, and public engagement activities that will inform Council decision-making.
- Strive to exceed minimum legislated requirements for notification, providing greatest notification possible.
- Introduce a checklist of minimum standards for engagement activities (e.g. notification periods, formats offered, accessibility requirements, information provided, etc.).
You may have your own ideas. Please feel free to share.
Priority: Continue to seek opportunities for infrastructure grants and fiscal prudence.
Action: Increase community input into budget planning.
I am proud of the way this Council has planned and managed challenging and costly projects.
We’ve acquired 3 million in grant money for shovel ready projects to renovate our rec centres, build bike lanes, and pay for environmental and infrastructure projects. Our reserves and cash are substantial ($45 M), our debt is low ($4 M), and, according to the Municipal Finance Authority, we are well poised to borrow money to help pay for infrastructure deficits, if we so choose. This year Council committed to conservation of water. Conservation of water will prolong the use of the current water shed thus mitigating costs for current and future generations. To incentivize water conservation Council agreed to keep the sewer cost capital charges on the water bill rather than on the tax bill. This user-pay strategy incentivizes reduction of water use as it is tied to a reduction of the sewer cost charges.
One of our most significant expenses over the coming years will be infrastructure renewal. See my post on Renewing Oak Bay’s Infrastructure.
Most people I talk to agree we need to reduce the deer population in Oak Bay. I agree. People care about their gardens and nobody wants to collide with a deer making its way across a public road. So we need to reduce the deer herd and citizens need to feel assured of their safety. To follow is an overview of what steps Council has taken.
In 2014 Oak Bay Council addressed the increasing population of deer in Oak Bay. At the time the only option available was to cull since the Province would not permit translocating or inoculation. The cull turned out to be expensive, ineffective, and divisive. One of the unique and key challenges for Oak Bay is that there is no will from Victoria and Saanich (from where the deer are migrating) to work collaboratively on this project. This means there will continue to be a constant flow of deer— attracted to our parks and gardens— migrating into Oak Bay. What we can do is address the overpopulation by reducing the deer herd to manageable levels. Everything the province will allow us to do we are doing.
So in 2016, recognizing the challenges of a cull the Province agreed to permit an innovative approach by inoculating the deer with a contraception. Oak Bay Council partnered with the Province and Urban Wildlife Stewardship Society (UWSS) to implement a program that is evidence-based and involves public education. The program begins with data collection and analysis to monitor deer movements and ecology. Then, in Fall of 2018, an immuno-contraception program for the doe population is planned.
The scientists believe that this is our best option given our unique topography and circumstances. I believe this approach strikes a balance between citizen quality of life/safety and a humane, affordable, and effective intervention to manage the deer herd in the community. We will need to monitor this program and should the program not work then we will find one that does.
For more information about the program see Oak Bay News and the UWSS website.
I was recently asked the following question about the United Church development proposal: “Could you advise us of your position on the affordable housing project proposed by the granite street united church?”
Here is my response:
My understanding is the OB United Church has submitted an application to the District to rezone their property for affordable housing, an aspiration in keeping with the Church mandate.
My impression from talking with neighbors, and reading emails and other notices, is that the neighbors are largely concerned with the massing of the proposed building, traffic congestion, and construction disruption and how this will impact the established neighborhood.
The framework of our OCP encourages us to consider opportunities for affordable housing and it also requires any development be respectful of established neighborhoods. The challenge is to find common ground and address the needs of the neighbors, community, and applicant.
To be clear, my comments below are in the context of not having yet reviewed any development application. While Council is aware the application is now in process with staff, and I have attended a couple of the consultations the applicant has had with the neighbors, Council has not yet seen the current Oak Bay United Church application. I appreciate this process has been highly contentious and there has been a fractious communication dynamic between the applicant and the neighbors. This is unfortunate since this project really deserves a robust engagement process.
The way I see it, OB is a built out residential community. We do not have large tracks of land like other jurisdictions in the region. We also lack well-defined transition areas for new development adjacent to single family neighborhoods. These existing conditions quickly trigger strain between new land use applications and neighbors. And it also means in instances where new development is sought, ideally, applicants, neighbors and the District need to work in partnership to ensure the right fit for these new developments. We all need to be creative, open-minded, and respectful. It takes work but it can be done.
The questions for me is, “Can the church forward an affordable housing proposal that respects the established neighborhood?” And, how would I approach this issue?
To understand my approach, my track record of larger developments speaks for itself: For example, in 2012 I voted against the Oak Bay Lodge application for a 320-bed regional critical and dementia care facility because I concluded the development— a 5-6 storey building— was too big for that property and would undermine the integrity of the adjacent established neighborhood (it dramatically hovered over the west side of Hampshire Rd neighborhood). That said, the Clive development is an example of where I supported a higher density multi-residential development on a high traffic corridor that in my view respected the established neighborhood (on Clive Ave.). My support for the Bowker, again on a high traffic corridor (Cadboro Bay Road), was supported for similar reasons as the Clive, and I believe that in time the Bowker development will enhance, not undermine the adjacent neighborhood.
I would support an application for affordable housing on this parcel of land if the proposal is respectful of established neighborhood.
I hope that you can appreciate that I cannot comment on the actual application that I have not yet seen. But I can assure you that I will be looking for an application that can ensure the integrity of the established neighborhood is upheld.
Please feel free to contact me if you wish to discuss this further.