Oak Bay OCP review inspires passion from residents

Council approved the new official community plan

If comments from the crowd Tuesday hold true, Oak Bay council will create the next set of tools for the official community plan under the watchful eyes of residents.

Council approved the new OCP with 20-plus people on hand just before 10 p.m. Sept. 9 at Monterey Recreation Centre. The crowd swelled at one point to fill the roughly 150 chairs set up and nearly 30 people spoke over the approximately four hours of public hearing and subsequent special council meeting where they unanimously approved the bylaw to replace the 1997 OCP.

The hot topic was clearly the possibility of densification, as about half the speakers directly opposed the concept in the OCP.

“More people, more cars, more problems,” seemed to be a mantra for those opposed to growth in the community.

“We shouldn’t be doing things that supplies more rentals,” said resident Patrick Skillings.

“I think we’re all going to be saddened in Oak Bay by the loss of what we enjoy, which is space.”

While Skillings suggested council shouldn’t “change something that isn’t broken,” speaker Mike Miller was supportive of the review, citing changes in the world since 1997.

He noted the wording “reasonable change is open for discussion” and the words sensitive and innovative set a high bar for potential developers.

One Monterey Avenue resident spoke of her desire to preserve the heritage of Oak Bay, which, Carla Perry explained, she’d ascertained from a longtime resident in her block. That resident can name most of the residents back to the 1950s, back then it was primarily large families. Now there are only three homes with children.

“There’s less than half the population on my street than 50 years ago,” she said. “I don’t want to live in a museum. … I see my street shrinking and growing old.”

Paul Woods was adamant that the OCP, designed as a framework offered too much leeway, but that wasn’t his biggest concern.

“This council is not listening to what people are saying,” he said. “A plan is only as good as the people carrying it out. … It is after all just a statement of intent.”

Pat Wilson voiced densification concerns as well, but offered the balance of a solution revisited by a few other speakers – the expectation to participate when bylaw changes arise. Bylaw changes require public participation by law.

Parks and green space

A couple of residents spoke about a lack of specific protection for areas such as Uplands Park and Anderson Hill.

“They are special areas and we need to protect them from development … from over tourism,” said Kathleen Matthews. “Those two special places need some special designation.”

That too, is an area where residents can have more input in the future, staff responded later in the meeting. The plan is to create a parks and recreation master plan, a topic that needs to go before council for budget and resource discussions.

Coffee at Henderson

Traffic and other concerns about a designation for possible commercial/residential mix at the corner of Henderson and Cedar Hill X roads hit the podium a couple of times over traffic concerns. That corner is designated as potential for commercial use but would require a rezoning process through council, staff explained.

Fall election looms

A handful of residents alluded to the upcoming election. Opposed to increasing density in the community, one Beach Drive resident referred to a time when apartment buildings were approved in what’s now his neighbourhood.

“When I moved here in the mid-1970s there was a new mayor,” he said. “The old mayor and council had been sent packing.”