Native plant protection needs public input

Oak Bay considers fences for native plant species, heritage garden

Oak bay neighbours will have a chance, in the coming months, to weigh in about how much the district really does care about its flowers.

A request for a Development Variance Permit and Heritage Alteration Permit was brought before Oak Bay council at the July 22 meeting, asking for council to allow fencing that will keep deer out of the Oak Bay Native Plant Park at 1180 Beach Drive.

While many residents have been split on the use of fencing to deal with Oak Bay’s deer issue, current bylaws designate the park, along with other public properties, as protected municipal heritage sites. Friends of the Oak Bay Native Plant Garden made a request at the May 21 Committee of the Whole meeting to erect deer fencing, noting that “deer are eating many of the rare plants in this garden, which is having a negative impact on the efforts of the volunteers.”

Ray Herman, director of Parks and Recreation, said that while the commission had no objections to the installation of the fence, funding for it was not approved. The Committee of the Whole moved to refer the issue to the Heritage Commission, which since recommended that council move forward with the proposed fencing.

The proposal now is to install 150 metres (500 feet) of black deer fencing that would blend into the foliage and protect the north, south and east sides of the plants. The fencing would also reach 2.5 metres (eight feet) in height, which requires a variance permit due to height violations.

“We have to hear from the public before any decisions are made, but volunteers have made clear to council the need to protect native species in the plant garden and have identified the need for a solution here,” said mayor Nils Jensen.

Before installing the fences, the group will need a heritage alteration permit and variance to the screens and fences bylaw. If council opts to move forward with the proposed fencing, the group will have to approve an expenditure of $7,700 for the fence, of which the Heritage Foundation will cover 25 per cent.

The public hearing is expected to take place on Sept. 30.