Election 2014: Development tops the issues at all candidates forum

Oak Bay candidates square off at first all candidates debate

Residents were more concerned with the D-word than the A-word during the first all-candidates meeting in Oak Bay.

And it wasn’t deer.

While the ungulates and amalgamation made an appearance, density reigned supreme as the candidates were seated in front of a crowd packed into the United Church at the meeting hosted by CommonSense Victoria and moderated by former Oak Bay Mayor Christopher Causton on Thursday (Oct. 23).

Three incumbents and eight others are vying for six seats on council: Hazel Braithwaite, Tom Croft, Heather Holmes, Sigurd Johannesen, *Michelle Kirby, Jan Mears, *Kevin Murdoch, *Tara Ney, Joan Russow, Andrew Stinson and Eric Zhelka.

Focus on monster homes, Oak Bay Lodge, floor area calculations, infill housing questions all alluded to density concerns from residents.

“A 4,000 square foot home on a very small lot is not conducive,” Braithwaite said in response to one question. “I’m not for monster homes on small lots.”

Monster homes were his impetus to run for council Zhelka said. “If you want a large house, you buy a large lot, that’s what everybody else in the world does.”

What Murdoch called “unfortunate changes” to the building bylaws of 2007 allowed for fixed floor area rather than the ratio. The incumbent councillor noted the next council will see a proposal to change the bylaws shifting back toward the 2007 formula “forcing the footprint down into the ground.”

Infill and duplexes belong as long as square footage allows, community consultation occurs and it fits within the community, Croft said.

“Protection of trees is paramount,” Holmes said, adding her voice to the list of those for whom community engagement is critical. “And consider (them) individually.”

Moving forward on secondary suites would mean duplexing all of Oak Bay said Braithwaite.

“We have to be extra respectful of infill in Oak Bay,” she said. “We need neighbourhoods that offer different things.”

Stinson too, favours bringing in guidelines for secondary suites.

“We know approximately 10 per cent of houses have them,” he said, noting suites are critical for young families with a mortgage and seniors aging in place. “I don’t think the secondary suite should be in every house on every property.”

Croft was careful to note he doesn’t support “blockbusting” with infill or development mid-residential streets.

“Our problem is going to be depopulation unless we do something to welcome families,” said Mears.

Residents go to the polls Nov. 15 to choose six councillors and a mayor in Oak Bay.

Advance voting is held Nov. 5 at the Oak Bay municipal hall between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m.; Nov 6, at the Student Union Building, University of Victoria noon to 4 p.m. There is a special voting opportunity Nov. 7 at Oak Bay Lodge, 2251 Cadboro Bay Rd. from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Advance voting also runs Wednesday, Nov. 12 at municipal hall between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m.Saturday Nov. 15 is general voting day with polling stations open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at Emmanuel Baptist Church, 2121 Cedar Hill Cross Rd.; Monterey Centre, 1422 Monterey Ave.; and Monterey School, 851 Monterey Ave.Residents who expect to be out of town, or unable to attend these voting opportunities, can participate in a mail-in vote. Visit oak bay.ca for details.

The A-word

The Nov. 15 ballot will also include the non-binding opinion question: Are you in favour of The District of Oak Bay being amalgamated into a larger regional municipality? (yes or no).

“It’s responsible to ask,” said Tom Croft. “The road to amalgamation would surely be a long one.”

“As a result of asking the question, the province might get ideas,” said Eric Zhelka. “There’s no advantage for Oak Bay.”

“My opinion isn’t as important as yours,” answered Heather Holmes.

The other D-word

Russow is an advocate of co-existing with deer and prefers a contraception method of population control for the ungulates in Oak Bay. She was the only candidate to mention that alternative.

Webcasting

While no one addressed the cost, a show of hands indicates all council candidates would be in favour of webcasting council meetings.