Councillor says there is no conflict in Abstract discussions

Oak Bay councillor says he is not in conflict as council reviews a proposed development project

Coun. Tom Croft

Coun. Tom Croft

While several Oak Bay residents call on Coun. Tom Croft to remove himself from council discussions about a proposed Abstract Developments project, Croft says there is no conflict.

The Oak Bay News received several letters suggesting that as a realtor, Croft should recuse himself from discussions surrounding the proposed development at Bowker and Cadboro Bay roads.

“(The district) has a legal opinion that says I’m not in conflict of interest dealing with land-use issues as long as there is no pecuniary interest,” Croft told the News.

Resident Steve Bowker, who pointed to an online comment by Croft in support of Abstract’s work, said in an interview with the Oak Bay News that it’s about perception.

“The main thing is it’s not about whether or not there is a conflict, it’s about the perception,” Bowker said.

If people feel a prominent realtor participating in discussions about a substantial development for the district is concerning, it could prompt anger among residents that will not help council’s negotiations with the developer, Bowker said.

“These negotiations are important for Oak Bay,” Bowker said. “It’s all about peace and harmony.”

Croft said he wrote the testimonial five years ago, before he was a councillor, after a client who purchased a unit in one of Abstract’s buildings was particularly pleased with the purchase.

The current proposal “is a different project,” he said.

“(Mike) Miller and Abstract have their own marketing and sales team. They don’t use realtors to represent them.”

In a Feb. 3 letter in the Oak Bay News, resident Bruce Filan said if Croft did not remove himself from discussions, he and his team should commit to not selling any future units in the project should it move forward.

Croft said the suggestion makes no sense, questioning how he could bind the associates he works with into not helping clients buy in the building if they wanted to.

Croft said as a member of the Advisory Design Panel, he has viewed two presentations for the proposed project. The ADP and Advisory Planning Commission have both recommended council move the project forward, while highlighting some specific concerns for further discussion, such as density and setbacks. Municipal staff have also recommended council move the proposal ahead in discussion.

The mixed-use proposal is slated to return to committee of the whole Feb. 20.

“The public is still going to have lots of opportunity to talk about this,” Croft said.