Sitting in a coffee shop just outside the boundary of the District of Oak Bay, Nils Jensen chuckles and points to the street that serves as the dividing line between Victoria and Oak Bay.
“I always get a kick out of this building. Did you know that, while the building is located in Victoria, the foundation supports for it extend under the street and into Oak Bay? I always thought that we sort of own part of the building,” laughed the Oak Bay mayor.
It’s the sort of anomaly bound to arise when 13 municipalities exist close to one another. The borders between municipalities have been drawn as well as possible, said Jensen, but it would be impossible to draw a dividing line that didn’t impact some individual properties.
“I got a call from one resident who has just a small portion of his yard in Victoria and the rest of his property in Oak Bay. He was asking why, on his tax bill, he saw a charge for policing from Victoria. He’d checked and found that he was within our policing boundaries and that it was highly unlikely that Victoria police would ever respond to a problem at his address. He joked that if he ever found a dead body on his lawn, he might drag it over to the part of his lawn that was in Victoria and then call them to report the crime,” said Jensen.
“Of course it was just a bit of dark humour, but it did highlight the absurdity of the situation.”
But other, more serious, situations have arisen over the years.
In one case, an Oak Bay resident received an order to remove a carport on his property as the structure did not meet Victoria zoning requirements, Jensen recalled.
“It was only a small corner of the structure that was on the Victoria side of the boundary, but he had the choice of demolishing the whole thing or seeking other remedies through the regulatory process. I seem to recall that the matter was finally resolved and he was allowed to keep his carport,” Jensen said.
Then there was the Granite Street resident who’d undertaken major reconstruction on his Oak Bay property. Part of that involved relocating his sewer lines. To tap into the Oak Bay system, he’d need to install a series of pumps to lift his sewage to the lines. He was not allowed to access the Victoria system, which was also available adjacent to his property, although that feed would not require the pumping of waste, but would flow downhill by gravity.
“We managed to resolve that situation as well, but it shows you that some of the boundary issues are things no one ever anticipated when those boundary lines were drawn,” Jensen said.
Not that Jensen feels that these anomalies make the case for amalgamation. “These are just the little quirks that happen from time to time and we tend to co-operate pretty well in resolving the issues,” he said.
“For a handful of properties it means that they actually live in two jurisdictions, but I doubt that for most of them it ever has any real impact. But of course it can seem pretty strange to someone who isn’t familiar with the history of the region.”
Jensen added that serious issues like fire fighting, policing and medical response are not impacted by municipal boundaries. “Those issues have long ago been resolved and the municipalities have a tremendous level of co-operation and shared resources. The system works.”