Oak Bay United Church board chair Cheryl Thomas was the first to announce the church’s plans for redevelopment and aim towards an affordable housing project. (Oak Bay News file photo

Oak Bay United Church board chair Cheryl Thomas was the first to announce the church’s plans for redevelopment and aim towards an affordable housing project. (Oak Bay News file photo

Oak Bay United Church to improve public engagement process

Congregation hopes to shed more light on redevelopment plans with local residents.

Oak Bay United Church plans to ramp up its community engagement as it proceeds on an affordable housing development at Mitchell and Granite streets.

The initiative, announced mid-July this year, is meant to create cash flow for the church congregation and aging century-old structure, as well as support the Oak Bay community with more affordable rental housing. This came as a result of plummeting funds and mounting maintenance costs for the church in recent years.

“When we looked at the options that were consistent not only with our values and the needs of the community, affordable housing became our focus,” Oak Bay United Church Rev. Michelle Slater told council on Monday night. “Our vision is to use our church property to create rental housing that will complement the community that is already here. This is not subsidized housing and not support housing for people who are in vulnerable populations.”

Slater added part of the plan is to move the church thrift shop to an off-site location, as it is “not sustainable” where it is.

The proposed plan isn’t without its share of controversy, however.

After the announcement, residents living near the church complained they were not properly informed by church representatives of what plans were set in motion and how they could affect their neighbourhood.

“The church failed to engage the neighbours meaningfully and instead of proposing a development supported by the neighbours, they set in motion a confrontational process,” Matt Stuke, a local Oak Bay resident told council earlier this month, adding residents “just want to be consulted” beforehand.

Others, such as former Oak Bay mayor Joanna Butler, criticized the church congregation for being too vague and prioritizing cash flow over positive community growth and engagement.

“We were told that we’d get a chance to comment once sketches of the proposed development had been prepared… this is putting the cart before the horse,” Butler said. “It would be better if the various parties sat down to discuss values and principles to guide any proposal put forth.”

To help clear the air, Slater stepped up on Monday night, pointing out things are in motion to better engage with Oak Bay residents on the church’s plans for redevelopment.

“We’ve formed an advisory panel, including a developer with experience in government-funded programs, a residential property investor experienced in government real estate, a lawyer with extended experience with housing and local government law and former Oak Bay mayor Christopher Causton.”

The church also applied to B.C. Housing for a loan to begin the community consultation phase and approached Rod Windjack (from CEI Architecture) to be the architect. Windjack previously worked on the recent Oak Bay High initiative by creating a successful design charrette, subsequently easing tensions between citizens, developers and other parties.

“With Rod, we’re planning the process of community dialogue and conversation, including open houses and workshops,” Slater said, adding the church is trying to keep the community more in the loop, which includes a monthly newsletter.

“We’re grateful that our neighbours are so intentional about being in conversation with us and we look forward being in much more dialogue and collaboration with this project,” Slater said.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Island Health has reported a COVID-19 outbreak at Saanich Peninsula Hospital. (Arnold Lim/Black Press)
Four new COVID-19 cases added to Saanich Peninsula Hospital outbreak

Inital round of patient testing is complete, staff testing continues

A rendering of Victoria Wonderland, a drive-thru immersive holiday experience that has been cancelled due to COVID-19. (Courtesy of Transcend Victoria)
Victoria Wonderland drive-thru show cancelled due to COVID-19

Organizers hope to host a similar event, if restrictions allow, in the new year

Oak Bay High students Mimi Hill and Aine O’Donnell run along the Jack Wallace Memorial Track. The old track is due to be resurfaced. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Oak Bay track resurfacing delayed

Oak Bay commits $50,000 towards renewed Jack Wallace track

Swiftsure International Yacht Race 2018. (Black Press Media file photo)
Popular Swiftsure yacht race cancelled for second consecutive year

International sailing race hopes to run its 77th event in 2022

Saanich golfer and top B.C. junior and juvenile player Willy Bishop was named to the 2021 Canadian National Junior Golf Squad on Nov. 19. (Photo courtesy Jenny Bishop)
Saanich student to tee-off with national golf team

Willy Bishop, 16, named to Canadian National Junior Golf Squad in 2021

Motorists wait to enter a Fraser Health COVID-19 testing facility, in Surrey, B.C., on Monday, Nov. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Another 694 diagnosed with COVID-19 in B.C. Thursday

Three more health care outbreaks, 12 deaths

(AP Photo/Paula Bronstein)
POLL: Has COVID-19 changed your plans for the holidays?

The lights are going up, the stacks of presents under the tree… Continue reading

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Dec. 1

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Watch Messiah at home with the Sooke Philharmonic

Concert available to stream Dec. 12

Emergency crews used a backhoe loader to clear fire debris from the scene of a fire on Wesley Street Thursday as police and firefighters gathered up propane tanks, stoves and fireplaces used by camp residents to heat tents. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
City of Nanaimo dismantles downtown homeless encampment after fire

Four to six tents burned up in Wesley Street fire Thursday, Dec. 3

A demonstrator wears representations of sea lice outside the Fisheries and Oceans Canada offices in downtown Vancouver Sept. 24, demanding more action on the Cohen Commission recommendations to protect wild Fraser River sockeye. (Quinn Bender photo)
First Nations renew call to revoke salmon farm licences

Leadership council implores use of precautionary principle in Discovery Islands

Ten-month-old Aidan Deschamps poses for a photo with his parents Amanda Sully and Adam Deschamps in this undated handout photo. Ten-month-old Aidan Deschamps was the first baby in Canada to be diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy through Ontario’s newborn screening program. The test was added to the program six days before he was born. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Children’s Hospital Eastern Ontario *MANDATORY CREDIT*
First newborn tested for spinal muscular atrophy in Canada hits new milestones

‘If Aidan had been born any earlier or anywhere else our story would be quite different’

BC Ambulance Services reassures people that the service is well staffed and ready to respond. Photo by Don Bodger
BC Ambulance assures the Island community they’re ‘fully staffed’

‘Paramedics are not limited to a geographical area.’ — BCEHS

Canadians’ mental health has deteriorated with the second wave, study finds

Increased substance use one of the ways people are coping

Most Read