As we finish another year and contemplate 2017, I am reminded how thankful I am to be a Canadian – to live in BC and especially to live in Oak Bay.
2016 was a very busy and productive year. It was also a year of transitions and renewal. We said fond goodbyes to several long-term employees, and welcomed new expertise and experience to our leadership team who will work throughout the coming year with our council commissions, committees, panels and boards. These citizen volunteers play an important role helping council and staff make informed decisions that reflect the needs, concerns and wishes of our residents. Community engagement will continue as a priority in 2017.
Council’s core mandate is to protect and enhance the quality of living that residents enjoy and expect. The delivery of police and fire services, and the management and maintenance of essential public services – roads, sewers, parks and recreation facilities in particular – continue as daily responsibilities. Staff is also developing an asset management plan which will address the replacement and ongoing maintenance of our aging infrastructure, and council remains committed to sound fiscal management of our capital budgets.
A key project which will move forward to design phase next year is the provincially-mandated separation of the combined sanitary and stormwater sewers in the Uplands neighbourhood. Council approved a new stormwater system in November, the CRD has since approved the project, and it has been sent to the Ministry of Environment for final sign off.
Change is happening all around us – it’s inevitable as our neighbourhoods and our citizens age. How we respond to increased demands for new housing options, and plan for modest population growth without compromising our infrastructure, our natural environment and our neighbourhood character is a key challenge and important priority focus for staff and council in 2017.
With the Official Community Plan as our guide, and with the support of our citizen committees and the public, staff will continue work on the development of strategies for the urban forest, and housing that will help guide planning processes and council decisions ensuring that these key initiatives are integrated and reflect community priorities.
Once finalized, the Urban Forest Strategy will capture the important community values placed on our natural environment and will ensure that our tree canopy is maintained through our planning processes.
The Advisory Planning Commission are working now with staff to bring forward an approach that will help guide a Residential Infill Strategy for the District. Our residents have a range of concerns and hopes with respect to how the district will manage change in our neighbourhoods, and we look forward to engaging with our residents to plan for the next generation while recognizing our heritage and community values. To help strike that important balance, council will be considering heritage conservation areas early in the new year.
The Cenotaph Committee charted new traditions this past November welcoming the Songhees Nation and Esquimalt Nation to honour with us their soldiers who fought for our collective freedom. Council will be working with this committee to explore ways to make the grounds more accessible for people with disabilities and more welcoming as a year round place for reflection and contemplation.
Council will continue in 2017 to support the Urban Wildlife Stewardship Society in securing final approvals from the provincial government for a non-lethal way to manage our growing urban deer population. Immunocontraception is currently not a recognized option by the provincial government however a research opportunity is being pursued.
The issue of derelict boats has been taken up by the CRD, and council will discuss early in the new year how best to represent Oak Bay’s coastal interests at this table.
We have a busy year ahead, and I thank my council colleagues for their dedicated service to our great community, and I thank our staff for their ongoing commitment to delivering quality public services and Council priorities.
As we prepare to celebrate the holiday season and welcome a new year, on behalf of council and staff, I wish our residents and their families many blessings of good health, happiness and friendship.
– Nils Jensen is mayor of