Oak Bay Lodge proposal trips up again

Provincial rules restrict talks on controversial dementia care facility redevelopment

Discussions about the Oak Bay Lodge redevelopment have taken another two steps back.

Only the building’s height and parking can be addressed during the permit application process,  a consultant hired by the municipality informed Oak Bay’s  committee of the whole this week. “People may not like having only to speak to height and parking but that’s what the Local Government Act says,” said Felice Mazzoni of Focus Corporation. In a 12-page report the consultant noted that the restriction “makes it extremely difficult to attempt to create any meaningful public engagement strategy or dialogue” and recommended developing a local area plan “in order to properly and effectively engage the community in a meaningful fashion.”

No reason was given why the consultant group hired in February waited until now to inform the municipality of the governance restrictions.

It was a frustrating setback for residents who came to the meeting expecting to air their concerns about Baptist Housing Society’s plans to redevelop the Cranmore Road lodge into a 320-bed facility to house seniors with dementia.

“You’re still where you were at Christmas,” said Hampshire Road resident Raisa Frenette. “If this was a true consultation process why didn’t this (discussion) happen before the proposal with changes was made?” she asked. Baptist Housing has been sent back to the drawing board several times with requests for a more timely plan and to reduce the height of the proposed redevelopment.

Other residents tried to raise concerns about the redevelopment’s progress, including asking about a recent telephone survey Baptist Housing had conducted as well as lack of quality line drawings.

“How can anybody decide yea or nay if you can’t see what it’s going to look like?” Bowker Avenue resident Michael Donald asked.

Mayor Nils Jensen shut down comment on the survey, but picked up on the model thread asking consultant Deane Strongitharm if an architect’s model could be put on display in a public place such as Oak Bay Recreation Centre. Strongitharm noted a model has been ready since February.

Coun. Cairine Green asked if a balloon test could be done. The test uses  industrial balloons tethered in position and height of the proposed building so passersby and council can see how high the building would be. She had to explain the balloon test to consultant Mazzoni, who then agreed it might be a good idea.

Ultimately, the consultant group was asked to come back to council on April 23 with a revised timeline for a public consultation process.