Planning committee off to a tentative start

Oak Bay takes another look at planning committee structure before its formation

Oak Bay’s planning committee is on pause after a surge of concern from the community Monday night.

“We are trying to do the right thing for our community, we just need to tweak it,” said Coun. Hazel Braithwaite during the meeting.

The terms of reference for a proposed advisory planning committee were on the agenda for Oak Bay’s committee of the whole to discuss. Concerns and questions primarily surrounded the makeup of the group and whether it would be a committee or commission.

“After many concerns were raised with the concept of a committee, we decided to ask staff to report back on the two options, as we really hadn’t delved into the details of the two structures in the prior meeting,” said Coun. Michelle Kirby, who was acting mayor in place of vacationing Nils Jensen. “The committee option was recommended initially, but we’re going to look at a commission as well, just to be sure we’re starting off on the right foot.”

During the meeting, Coun. Eric Zhelka said in reviewing February staff reports where council consented to a committee structure for the advisory group, he had second thoughts. It was a sentiment voiced by residents who prefer to see a commission structure.

A second concern was the makeup of the proposed 13-member committee. It would include: a council member along with members with backgrounds in environment, transportation, heritage, development, a member of the education community, one under 25 years of age, a member of the business community, a member of the Victoria Real Estate Board and four members of the community at large.

“I like the composition that’s suggested,” said Coun. Tara Ney. “This isn’t about pushing an agenda, this is about having perspective.”

The makeup would be in addition to having experts come in, for example, calling on Island Health when necessary. The resident versus non-resident issue was also discussed, with the current terms allowing for non-residents to sit on the board.

Ney made a motion to create a report with information on the commission versus committee structure.

“Given all the concerns that were raised we decided to look at the options and see if a commission would suit Oak Bay better,” Kirby said.

Other information council, sitting as committee, sought from staff surrounds the potential of a working group in conjunction with a planning group.

“There’s a lot of work there, so we’re asking staff to see if in addition to this group we need a working group to get straight to that work and help support staff,” Kirby said after the meeting.

The advisory group is the next evolution of the official community plan, active transportation and environmental advisory committees, Kirby said.

“They will be advising council on planning issues, redevelopment and working with our staff as community representatives to ensure that the values expressed in the OCP, such as inclusion, stewardship of our environment, marine areas and parks, are expressed in how the community adapts to change.”

Other terms of reference included two-year overlapping terms to offer continuity by providing a mix of experience on planning issues.

“We’d all like to see this kind of work done quickly, to reduce the number of variances required to come to council,” Kirby said. “It’s unfair to the community to expect them to comply with a bylaw that is no longer consistent with our new OCP. It’s in all our best interests to get on with correcting those outdated bylaws.”