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Housing, climate change top OCP review

Residents will have the final say in the renewed official community plan on Sept. 9.

The previous OCP review and update for Oak Bay was in 1997. The renewal of that plan included several steps including a professional, external consultant to guide the work, and extensive community input which included visioning workshops, community open houses and an extensive community survey.

“The most significant aspect of it is that we are going to start considering more diverse housing types,” said Mayor Nils Jensen. “For me, that’s the biggest step forward.”

He said council heard from the public that they want to consider a greater combination of commercial and residential units than is currently seen in Oak Bay.

“I’m encouraged by that,” said Jensen. “We’ve seen the popularity of places like Oak Bay Walk near Foul Bay and Oak Bay Avenue. If you look back at the history of Oak Bay there are some excellent examples of that, the Bell Block for example.”

Jensen said the new community plan won’t force major changes in the district. “There hasn’t really been a radical change in values underpinning Oak Bay development for many decades. The idea is to create more inclusive, open housing options for seniors and families – creating more opportunities for them.

“You get a sense that there is renewal going on in Oak Bay which you see in infill construction and you see in renovations.”

The public consultation also showed strong support for secondary suites as a housing option. “There’s an evolution in attitude toward development – not a revolution, an evolution,” he said.

The younger generation supports a diversity of housing options within the community, Jensen added.

Residents also envision a greener, cleaner Oak Bay.

“There is a need to create an energy efficient, green, sustainable community,” said Jensen. “We’ve seen the significant impact climate change has, and continues to have, not only in Greater Victoria, but globally. We need to create a community that can adapt to that. … We recognize the need for us to do things differently.”

The community plan will provide a broad framework for a lot of these values to be put into practise. The plan looks at what types of zoning and bylaw regulations are needed to make Oak Bay more sustainable. “We’ve done that at the public level, now we find out how we expand that to the residential and business sphere. There’s more heavy lifting to do on that level,” Jensen said.

Oak Bay residents also value protecting the neighbourhood feel of the area. “Each neighbourhood has distinct qualities about it that people appreciate – which gives Oak Bay its unique character – we heard that loud and clear,” he said.

A survey of residents held in late 2013 had a participation rate of 33 per cent of households in a final sampling of 2,650 residents.

”What most impressed me about the process was the grassroots, ground-up nature of the process. … People came to the open houses, people came to the meetings and responded to the survey. It was broad based outreach in our community,” Jensen said.

He lauded the work of the OCP Project Advisory Committee which included councillors Pam Copley (Chair), Cairine Green and John Herbert, along with six members of the public.

“They estimated some 4,000 people had some kind of input into the document through visioning workshops, surveys and meetings. That’s why it will be strong. It’s a community driven OCP, not top down, it was a community driven process – so many voices were heard,” he said.

The draft version of the Oak Bay official community plan is available at the Oak Bay municipal hall, or on its website at oakbay.ca.

The public hearing is scheduled for 6 p.m. at the Monterey Centre on Sept. 9. The public is welcome to attend and voice their views on the subject.

 

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