Oak Bay council considers municipal hall efficiencies

Proposed changes mean Oak Bay staff could approve events, issue permits

Oak Bay council approved a number of initiatives to make better use of council and staff time during its Sept. 23 committee of the whole meeting.

During a rare Friday meeting, council discussed a number of streamlining techniques, from routine approval for amplified music in parks and beaches to rezoning simplifications.

“Some of them reduce the load on staff which is good. Some are just minor tweaks to the process to get things moving through quicker. They’re small ways of improving the way we do things,” said Coun. Kevin Murdoch, who chaired the meeting.

Minute-taking at council, commission and committee meetings was an area of concern, passing in a split vote including Murdoch opposing the change to note only actions and resolutions, no commentary.

Staff suggested they prepare minutes with no commentary, as reflected in other local governments and those with webcast meetings such as Oak Bay. It would save staff time and “eliminate need for staff to subjectively interpret what councillors are saying,” noted a staff report.

“My only concern on that was just because the minutes are the official record,” Murdoch said. “I’m going through archives and old minutes and I’m frustrated with the fact that some don’t have as much detail as I would like. … I think that’s an important thing to capture. I thought we should at least keep some of that.”

Murdoch, as well as Coun. Hazel Braithwaite, also opposed authorizing a development permit approval powers to an employee. Staff determine if an applicant has met development permit guidelines of the official community plan to issue a permit. There is no discretion for council unless variances are needed. They went with the recommendation that staff be delegated the authority to issue development permits where no variances are included. Unhappy applicants would have the ability to have the local government reconsider.

Changes committee agreed on included enabling the director of Parks, Recreation and Culture to approve amplified music in parks and on beaches, offering a more timely response to requests and no need for staff report to council or commission.

Staff would also be in a position – where the requirements of a covenant are clear – to approve a development application subject to the registration of a covenant to the satisfaction of the Director of Building and Planning, saving council, customers and staff time.

The Director of Financial Services would prepare quarterly Financial Reports for council instead of monthly. The zoning bylaw could be amended to allow the director of Parks, Recreation and Culture or a designate to approve filming in Oak Bay to be more responsive to the film industry which normally operates with little lead time.

Council currently holds in-camera or closed meetings after regular council meetings, they agreed those meetings could start preceding a regular council and reconvene after if more time is needed.

When a rezoning application first comes to council, staff would bring the associated zoning amendment bylaws at the same time, saving a customer a minimum of two weeks in the development approval process. It would also give council an opportunity to review bylaws with the applicant in the room.

The change would see an amended bylaw to allow, provided it meets municipal conditions, approving a limited number of special events that come to council annually for approval.

“There was again some discussion about making sure we see the event calendar so council doesn’t lose track of how many events are going on,” Murdoch said.

Bylaw changes are subject to public input.

Committee decision are made as recommendations to council, which meets Oct. 11. Visit oakbay.ca to view the agenda or live webcast of the meeting.

 

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