Flexibility proved key to achieving compromise on Oak Bay’s proposed advisory planning commission.
With previous meetings having hashed out the commission over committee preference, qualifications for membership of the group was deemed a final step as council perused the draft bylaw to establish the APC while meeting as committee of the whole on May 19.
The mandate of the commission is to advise council on matters respecting land use, community planning or proposed bylaws and certain permits under the Local Government Act.
Instead of subscribing to the prescriptive “shall” they opted for “will strive to” achieve membership with specific values.
“This is a very prescriptive list,” said Coun. Eric Zhelka.
“I lean toward flexibility, where it’s guided by a policy statement or statement of values,” Mayor Nils Jensen agreed later, backing the use of “strive” to provide that space.
They will strive to achieve geographical representation from all parts of Oak Bay. They will also strive for broad representation of community interests and expertise with one member each with an environmental background; an active transportation background; a member with heritage background; someone under the age 35; a member with development background; a member of the business community and three members of the community at large.
“Every seat is very, very valuable,” said resident Mary Douglas-Hunt. “Every single voice is really going to count and we need to be very careful who we choose.”
Those who attended the meeting appeared to prefer homeowners, as Douglas-Hunt put it, someone with “skin in the game”.
Council did not address home ownership but the Local Government Act stipulates a minimum two-thirds of the membership be residents of Oak Bay.
They also left some wiggle room in size. Instead of mandating nine members, they plan to create the commission with seven to nine members as suggested by Jensen.
“Seven members chosen wisely” are a better fit than the nine prescribed in the staff report, Mike Wimot, president of the North Henderson Residents Association told council. “I don’t think you need that many. I don’t think you can have efficiency with that many.”
Originally the draft document suggested an appointed member younger than 25, which Coun. Tom Croft suggested might offend such an applicant. He suggested, and was supported, to shift the age to 35 and omit the word youth. Both Kirby and Murdoch opposed the motion to make the change, citing a perception of calling on younger residents to participate.
“They have opinions,” Kirby said. “They see the world through their lens of being new and fresh. I think this is sending a really strong message to youth.”
With some concerns over the term “development background” among the elements they’ll strive to fulfill on the commission, Coun. Hazel Braithwaite suggested they add the term to the definitions portion of the bylaw. That list already clarifies commission, council, official community plan and zoning bylaw. It would provide clarity that a member could provide development expertise if they have experience as a member of a homeowners association, a realtor or as a developer.
“If it’s not working the way we want it to work we can, as a council, change the bylaw,” said Braithwaite.
The committee approved the amended draft to go before council for final consideration.