New Oak Bay High closer to approval

Council moves ahead with height, parking variances

Construction plans for the new Oak Bay High school got one step closer to approval on Sept. 10, as four bylaws required to clear the way for rezoning the appropriate properties were reviewed at a public hearing and received third reading. All that’s required for the rezoning to be complete and for the project to proceed is for the bylaw amendments to be adopted by council at its Sept. 24 meeting.

Third reading was passed despite misgivings expressed by 14 area residents who submitted a letter of concern to the municipality. They maintain that the parking facilities planned for the new school and accompanying facilities would be inadequate for the many activities taking place at the site. They cited particular concern about the after school use of the parking lot for sporting events and evening events in the school gymnasium, stating that resulting on-street parking might become a “source of problems and friction between residents, the staff of Oak Bay High and the municipality.”

While Mayor Nils Jensen acknowledged the concerns of the residents, he pointed out that the number of parking spots available within the plan is an increase from what is currently available. “We also heard representation from the Bays United Football Club, who will be using the (adjacent) fields. They had their own concerns that an increased number of parking spots would take away green space and jeopardize the future of the soccer field and rugby field at the site,” said Jensen.

A proposed amendment to the plan that was made at the public meeting, and which would have seen the number of parking spots increased from 195 to 225, was defeated allowing the plan to go ahead as written.

Jensen said that a covenant between the school board and the municipality is being drafted and will help clarify some of the outstanding issues regarding parking.

Other parts of the bylaw amendments regarding building height were given third reading with no opposition.

“The school board has voluntarily drawn back the building from the property line,” Jensen said. “The shadow studies have shown that the building heights have little or no effect on the shadow cast by the new building.”

The original project agreement between the Ministry of Education and the Greater Victoria school district was signed on March 8. It allows the replacement of the existing high school with a new school and a Neighbourhood Learning Centre. The new facility will not only accommodate the 1,300 students of Oak Bay High (plus approximately 100 international students) but will provide day care facilities and space to host seniors’ programs and other leisure activities under the management of Oak Bay Parks and Recreation.

The existing 1957 gymnasium at the high school will be retained and renovated to allow for the creation of a performing arts theatre and drama support space for use by both the school and the community-at-large. That aspect of the development was made possible by a $1 million contribution from the district of Oak Bay.

It’s anticipated that the request for proposals for the school’s construction will close in January of 2013 with the contract for construction awarded by March. Groundbreaking for the new school will occur sometime in April.

More information on the new high school project can be found at oakbay.sd61.bc.ca.