Suites research, consultation put on back burner

Impending civic election, summer schedule change timetable for solving issue

The road to – or away from – secondary suites in Oak Bay will be an even longer one.

With a municipal election coming up in November, council has steered away from dipping its fingers into the issue this summer.

It has opted instead to fold investigation into creating a bylaw that would allow for secondary suites into a revision of the official community plan.

“There’s not a lot of sense for this council to get started on that when we might have a new council coming in next year,” Coun. John Herbert said. “These things take sometimes three years.”

Mayor Christopher Causton said the summer isn’t a good time to tackle such a heavy issue, given that many people are out of town.

“There’s the question of timing, having a quorum and having enough time to meet with the public. The fact of the election coming up, this issue could not be dealt with in the next five months. We miss a lot of people in the summer.”

Regardless of the reason, the move is good news to Mike Wilmut of the Friends of Oak Bay Neighbourhoods.

“We’ve been wanting this all along,” he said. “It’s a complicated issue. The ramifications of legalizing secondary suites (means) it’s important that it be done well. It needs to be talked about with the community.”

The official community plan is a steering document that outlines how the municipality will grow, change and develop in the coming years. Oak Bay’s was last updated in 1997.

“The OCP is basically the contract that the municipality has with the public,” Wilmut said. “If you move to Oak Bay, how is Oak Bay going to be run, what is going to be allowed? It’s a time to take a look and see, what’s the new contract going to be, or do we like the old one?”

Certain aspects of the secondary suites issue need further investigation by council and staff, and need to be fully discussed with the public, Wilmut said. Such things could include the grandfathering of existing suites, what the regulations might look like and how the municipality would enforce any legalization of suites.

Earlier this month, council voted to transfer money into an account that will fund a review of the official community plan.

Causton said secondary suites will certainly be an election issue for candidates.

The municipal election is on Nov. 19 and Causton has announced he will not run for re-election.

The review of the official community plan is expected to happen throughout 2012.

ecardone@vicnews.com

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