Council to consider steep slope development at next strategic priorities session

Oak Bay staff outline recommended measures to deal with steep slope concerns

After hearing concern from residents about excavation and development on steep slopes in Oak Bay, council asked staff in February to provide it with information on the municipality’s current policy around reviewing and managing development on steep slopes. They also asked for any recommended measures that could be done to reduce dangers potentially created by developing or removing vegetation on steep slopes.

At Monday’s council meeting, Deborah Jensen, acting director of Building and Planning presented a report to council with information on the municipality’s current policies and identified ways that the district can further address steep slopes.

When presented with a proposed development, staff utilize legislation, bylaws and OCP policy to review individual sites. While Oak Bay’s zoning bylaw sets out the requirements for maximum floor area, lot coverage, and setbacks, it does not include any zoning specific to steep slope development. The Community Charter currently fills the hole by permitting a building inspector to require a land owner to provide a report certified by a qualified professional showing that land can be used safely for the use intended. This is currently used when the inspector considers that construction would be on land that may experience flooding, erosion, land slip, or rockfalls. This is done on an individual lot/application basis.

Staff suggested three measures that could be implemented to further address development on steep slopes, all requiring significant staff resources and budget.

The first is to create a Hazardous Conditions Development Permit Area that is specific to steep slope areas for the estimated cost of $60,000 and a one to two year timeline. This would involve contour mapping, technical studies to determine which slopes may be subject to potential hazards, a comprehensive public consultation process, and an amendment to the Official Community Plan.

The second measure would be to create a steep slope zone that would set parameters for lot coverage, setbacks and massing that may further restrict development in steep slope areas. Staff recommended that the steep slope zoning would follow the development of a steep slope development permit area and associated guidelines. While this would give further control over building it does not necessarily provide any control over lot clearing or excavation. This measure is estimated to cost about $40,000 and would take about one year.

The third recommended measure would be to establish further restrictions on tree removal through a review of the Tree Protection Bylaw. Staff estimates this project at one to two years and $30,000.

Due to the significant staff resources and budget required for the recommended measures, council voted in favour of referring the item to the next council strategic priorities session. This would occur after the fall election.

RELATED: Cliff excavation worries neighbours in Oak Bay

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