Duplexes, secondary suites and infill potential remain a top priority for council and the community.
Though not all agree.
While crafting an “achievable work plan” Oak Bay staff dropped official community plan implementation – through development of a housing strategy, secondary suite regulation or exploring an infill strategy. Council added it back to the discussion during a special council meeting Wednesday night to discuss the 2017-18 strategic priorities.
Many of the roughly 30 residents in attendance took the opportunity to speak about the priorities as presented. Most indicated membership in the North Oak Bay Community Association and opposed the municipality pursuing secondary suites in their neighbourhood.
The sentiment was shared across the board: no infill, work on infrastructure.
A pair of large infrastructure projects, as well as asset management remain on the priorities list (see related story).
“I really find it difficult to abandon the work that has been started on implementation of the official community plan,” said Coun. Tom Croft.
“There are more than 178 communities in BC that have a secondary suite regulation. All but Highlands and Oak Bay lack regulation in the Capital Region.”
He researched the topic, learning two family dwellings date back to the Second World Ar when up to four boarders were allowed in Oak Bay homes, later reduced to two. “More than 70 years later these provisions remain unchanged in Oak Bay,” he said.
Croft noted that in Oak Bay, 466 residential properties with suites and 67 legal non-conforming duplexes. are listed by the BC Assessment Authority
His support of regulation of secondary suites is for inclusion, transparency and fairness, public health and safety as well as consumer protection.
“I believe secondary suites should be contained in existing homes and that additions, lane way houses, in-law suites and accessory buildings do not qualify for secondary suite regulation,” Croft said. “Regulation should include adequate parking, size should be specified to accommodate a student, a senior or a caregiver these unite would provide a safe housing alternative. Secondary suites are a form of rental housing that is typically affordable, ground-oriented and market-based.”
Coun. Michelle Kirby seconded some of those sentiments, namely public safety, when she made the motion to add secondary suite regulation to the budget conversation.
Couns. Eric Zhelka and Kevin Murdoch opposed that motion.
Pieter de Groot, a founding member of the North Oak Bay Community Association, who has a professional background in community development, suggested infill or suites “will fundamentally change the character and quality of life” in that neighbourhood. He was among the half dozen residents who vocally opposed infill or suite regulation. Tara Douglas was pleased to see secondary suites pushed back on the strategic plan.
“It means we have more time to reflect on some of the issues,” she said. “I support the concept in theory but I’m also very wary.”
The strategic priorities are part of the budget discussion that start April 12 at 5 p.m. in council chambers at municipal hall. Visit oakbay.ca to find the agenda or watch the meeting online.