Divided council postpones decision until September
A new development might still be on the horizon for Oak Bay, even though it pushes past the boundaries of the Official Community Plan.
Council chambers and the overflow room were filled on Monday when the Committee of the Whole entertained public input regarding the 1940s-era Clive Apartments, which developers want to replace with a substantially larger, market rental building.
The development – a proposed three-storey, 19-unit building that would replace the two-storey, eight-unit apartment currently at 2280 Oak Bay Ave. – was brought forward to council with some revisions on Monday night, after developer JN Development group went through an extensive consultation process with area residents. The consultation, which has been ongoing through community meetings and online since October, yielded more alterations to the proposed design – not enough, however, to satisfy the majority of residents who attended the committee meeting, nor three council members who saw the development as “a poor fit” for Oak Bay.
“It’s a lovely building and one I’m sure we’d want to live in ourselves,” said Coun. Kevin Murdoch. “But I come back to the core ways we measure the impact on our community and this would be (a building with) the highest density in Oak Bay. … I applaud the applicant, but it is just not possible to have 19 suites in that area, and it’s not fitting with our community vision.”
In a three-to-three vote, due to the absence of Coun. Tara Ney, a motion put forward by Murdoch to reject the current proposal was defeated.
Instead, council passed a motion to move the head-lock vote to September, when all council members will be present to either reject the proposal outright or send it onto Oak Bay’s Advisory Design Panel for consultation.
“I’m not ashamed of standing behind this proposal at first … but, with what we’ve heard tonight, unfortunately, it’s a proposal that still needs more scrutiny,” said Coun. Cairine Green, who voted to reject the proposal. “I still support the idea of creating something that is consistent with our OCP.”
Coun. Michelle Kirby, who along with Coun. Pam Copley and Mayor Nils Jensen supported sending the proposal onto the Advisory Design Panel, said that residents were afraid of change and urged the people present to consider the advantages of “a really nice looking building.”
“I don’t know if you’ve ever looked for an apartment – most of you probably haven’t – but there are options out there that are just yucky, and this is an option that we can proudly give residents that is nice and new, and you can rent there,” said Kirby, adding The Clive would bring “exciting change” and a much-needed update to environmental standards. “Everyone is worried about parking, but people in apartments, most don’t have cars. I ran on the principle of engagement, and I love that you’ve done that numerous times, but we’ve addressed all the issues and this is a compromise.”
Some of the refinements brought forward by the developer Monday night included a refuge area on the sidewalk corner of Clive Drive and Oak Bay Avenue for pedestrians to sit, a staggered height to the building that would allow more sun – except in winter months – for the neighbour on the north side and adjustments in the proximity of the building to the street. One additional parking stall was also carved out for building visitors, though the currently proposed sidewalk on Clive Drive would see a loss of at least two to three parking spots on the congested street, according to public works staff.
The debate remained heated long into the evening, with Coun. John Herbert at one point noting the time was near 11 p.m. and suggesting the mayor simply change his vote so the developers would “get serious” about refining the proposal. The brief comedy was a small reprieve from the stark reservations of community members.
“As a mathematician, the numbers just don’t work out. … It sounds like council is ready to simply override the OCP,” said Oak Bay resident Mike Wilmut. “This is not ‘spot zoning’ we’re talking about here; this is setting a precedent, and developers are looking to council right now for a signal.”