Out with the old, in with the new official community plan

Municipality of Oak Bay announces major community plan review

Just don’t say the words “secondary suites.”

When it comes to outlining what a renewed official community plan might include for Oak Bay, Coun. Pam Copley, chair of the review’s working group, shies away from bringing up secondary suites. “I don’t want alarm bells to go off,” she said in a telephone interview following the March 26 announcement that the municipality has launched a major overhaul of its OCP.

But she did concede that a stormy April 2011 public meeting at Monterey recreation centre on legalizing secondary suites attended by 200-plus was the catalyst for the review.

“It was clear to us that we (council) were out of sync in many ways: communication, transparency and just (providing) information,” she said.

Residents have been calling for an OCP rewrite for years: at council meetings, at public meetings, at Oak Bay’s infrequent protests and in letters to the editor of Oak Bay News. Oak Bay adopted its first OCP – a planning and development guiding policy – in 1981 and it hasn’t been revised since the mid-1990s. The current plan doesn’t address a number of issues, Copley said. Climate change action – something the province has mandated Oak Bay to implement – isn’t mentioned nor does it include 1994 provincial heritage preservation amendments, a particular concern for Copley. “Those need to be embedded in the OCP,” she said.

Oak Bay resident and heritage advocate Ewa Lupin agrees. She led a demonstration at city hall last year protesting the potential subdivision of a heritage-designated property in her Runnymede Place neighbourhood.

“I certainly hope that during the 18-month review of the Official Community Plan, the council will pay considerable attention to the preservation of Oak Bay heritage,” she said.

How to allow seniors to age in place, whether in their own or in care homes, also needs to be examined, Copley said.

The OCP review could take up to two years to draft and will cost between $120,000 to $140,000. Under the direction of a five-member committee, which will include two residents, a consultant will be hired to facilitate the project. Community meetings in which residents can make suggestions as to what should be included in the new document will start this fall and continue through January and February 2013.