Deer and dogs make a mark on a citizen survey where 99 per cent said Oak Bay’s overall quality of life is good or very good.
“Overall I think it’s an unprecedented level of satisfaction that I think shows certainly what we’re doing and what previous councils have been doing are taking Oak Bay in the right direction,” said Mayor Nils Jensen. “A lot of the credit for that level of satisfaction has to go to councils over that last 25 or 30 years.”
The new statistics come from a resident satisfaction survey done by NRG Research Group between Sept. 20 and Oct. 4, when 414 households responded – 400 by telephone and 14 by email. Results from an online survey over a similar period are presented separately.
Key reasons for the satisfaction include the secure feeling of a low crime rate, natural beauty of the area, proximity to key services such as shops, schools and recreation, along with good municipal services and a strong sense of community.
For example, Oak Bay Recreation Centre development goes back to 1975, followed by ongoing upgrades. Walkability of the village is a result of the vision in the 1970s and 1980s to redevelop Athlone Court and the old Blethering Place.
“All of these add up, you can even go back as far as 1940s when (then) Reeve (Walter) Walker and the council he led acquired Uplands Park which was scheduled to be a whole bunch of small lots for development,” Jensen said. “We have to recognized that our goal is to carry that on in terms of preservation of our nature, preservation of our heritage and ensuring any development done here is in keeping with the current established neighbourhoods,” Jensen said. “(A) 99 per cent level is just unheard of. That doesn’t mean that we can just rest on our laurels. There are obviously some areas pointed out that we need to pull up our socks and that was the whole point of the survey.”
Residents who rate the overall quality of life as poor or very poor cite concerns with bylaw enforcement and road closures.
“I was particularly pleased to hear that 80 per cent feel that they get good value for the tax dollars because that’s always a concern for elected officials,” Jensen said.
Those surveyed were also pleased with services with parks and trails, with 95 per cent very or somewhat satisfied, followed by recreational and cultural facilities at 93 per cent. Satisfaction is also high with police services at 87 per cent, sports and recreation programming at 85 per cent, road maintenance at 84 per cent, and water and sewer services at 81 per cent.
“We’ve heard things like our recreation and park and walkability are things people appreciate … but there’s still work to be done. There’s some concern shown in the area of our planning services. It gives us a good snapshot of where we should be going,” Jensen said.
“The other issue raised was over densification and again that’s something that’s been on the radar for the last 30 or 40 years as we slowly evolve.”
He cites the 1970s concerns over densification on Beach Drive where apartment and condo buildings grew.
“This is a perennial issue and councils over the years have never taken a great leap forward … it’s all been incremental and well thought out,” Jensen said, noting now council is looking at potential infill or allowing duplex or triplexes.
“The third issue identified of course with some prominence is the issue of deer,” Jensen said. “That’s an issue we had a pilot project on and we will no doubt want to revisit during our priorities sessions just to see where we are and where we are heading. That’s something for council to decide, taking into account a whole bunch of factors.”
Those factors include the provincial program to fund municipalities up to $20,000, matched by the municipality, for deer projects.
Of those who responded to the survey, 70 per cent feel there is an overpopulation of deer in Oak Bay. Those who feel there is an overpopulation are likely to support an increase in property taxes to fund efforts to reduce the deer population. About 70 per cent would support a tax increase, including 37 per cent who would strongly support the measure. Nearly three in ten of those who perceive an overpopulation of deer, would oppose a property tax increase to fund efforts to reduce the deer population.
About 78 per cent of those who feel there is a deer overpopulation would support a deer cull, assuming it was the only option available – 59 per cent would strongly support such a deer cull – and 20 per cent opposed a deer cull even if it were the only option available.
During the survey some residents voiced concerns over wording around those deer questions.
“What council did is we identified areas we wanted to explore and the professional polling company working with our staff determined the phrasing,” Jensen said.
“This polling company is experienced and professional and it wasn’t really for council to second guess their approach.”
Deer weren’t the only animal on the survey.
Of those surveyed, 60 per cent agreed Oak Bay should have a dog park, while 34 per cent disagreed. Among those in agreement, more than half would support a “modest tax increase” to fund a park.
“We know there’s a dog issue and one solution may be to have a dog park. that’s an area we wanted to explore. Numerous other communities are going to a fenced off area for dogs in their parks,” Jensen said. “We wanted to get a sense of what our community felt.”
While the survey adds more information, Jensen wasn’t surprised by most of the statistics offered.
“These are opinions that people have and we have to keep it in context,” he said. “This is just one other source of information about where our community is.”
Oak Bay gets opinions from its residents through letters, speaking with residents and community events.
“This survey allows us to go beyond the activists and listen to what the residents have to say. It’s the same thing when I attend these block parties and receive the feedback. I go to as many block parties as I can… I wasn’t surprised by a lot of these results, either the level of satisfaction or the deer issue. That’s what I’ve been hearing all summer long,” Jensen said.
“We do tend to hear from the same people on an ongoing basis at council and tend to read their letters to the editor that come from specified groups or certain individual but its important for council to move beyond that at listen to what’s often called the silent majority.”
NRG presents the survey results to council during its strategic priority session this morning (Nov. 4) at 9 a.m. at municipal hall, 2167 Oak Bay Ave. View the agenda, which features the survey results, at www.oakbay.ca online.