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.

Oak Bay United Church

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.

My perspectives on the Oak Bay Lodge site

The Oak Bay Lodge will become available in about one year. How would you like to see it developed?

A bit of context.

The current Oak Bay Lodge is a regional facility that provides a range of residential care levels options and services for seniors, allowing them to remain in a familiar and stable setting as they age in one location. This has been a valuable asset in Oak Bay where many have benefited from the campus of care facility for the past 35 years. So in 2012, when Island Health partnered with Baptist Housing to propose the replacement of OB Lodge with a six story, 320-bed (possibly expandable) regional complex and dementia care hospital, there was an outcry from the neighbouring and larger OB community, myself included. Though many in Oak bay continue to believe the project was to replace the OB Lodge with another campus of care, this was simply not so. The replacement was from a campus of care facility to a regional complex and dementia care hospital.

Though Island Health was asking for significant change of use and increase in size and mass of the complex, they conducted NO consultation with OB Council nor the community. Yet there were legitimate concerns about height, massing, parking, traffic congestion, blasting, and change of use. In fact, the square footage of the proposal was about two times that of the Oak Bay Beach Hotel! These concerns, as well that Oak Bay residents would not have priority access to the new facility, the narrow scope of critical care only, and that the dementia care hospital would be exempt from land taxes to Oak Bay, the original application was rejected by Oak Bay Council. Councillors Braithwaite, Jensen, and myself voted against the original application, and Herbert and Mayor Causton voted in favour.

Eventually, in response to Oak Bay’s final decision with the next Council, Island Health still needing a critical care hospital to meet region needs, turned their attention to another site, at Blanshard and Hillside. Most people I talk to in the region agree this a much better location for a regional critical care facility of this scale.

The learning here must be that any project of this scale on this site must undergo extensive community and regional consultation.

Currently Island Health owns the property and very soon intends to legally transfer the property to the Capital Regional Health District (CRHD). The CRHD will then consult with the larger region about the future use of this land. The only criterion the CRHD is constrained by is that the province requires the land be used for the “public good”. This opens the door for local input on the future use of this property.

So as the CRHD enters an engagement process with the region, I would want leadership in Oak Bay to be proactive and engage the neighbours and broader community to develop some creative ideas for this strategic property that can at the same time meet the needs of the region as well as Oak Bay. This might be a site with mixed use housing for elder care as well as below market rental for young families that will encourage connectivity between seniors in care or living independently and young families, for example. But importantly, this would be a bottom-up process reflecting the needs of the region AND views of Oak Bay residents.  I would be very concerned about any leadership that wants to repeat the mistakes of the past, making behind-closed-door deals to predetermine the use of this site without thoroughly consulting the citizens of Oak Bay.