After a three-month break, round two is officially underway.
Oak Bay council got its first look Monday at the revamped proposal from Baptist Housing for a new facility to replace Oak Bay Lodge. The new design addresses many of the concerns raised during the original variance application last fall.
Baptist Housing CEO Howard Johnson was on hand to give an overview of the changes. He was also there to assure all concerned that this time, the consultation step is being handled properly.
“We think this is a much better process this time around,” Johnson told the News Tuesday.
In addition to concerns raised in the fall over the height, access points and overall impact of the original design, there were also complaints that the entire application had been rushed and that council was forced too quickly into making a decision. This time, however, an independent planning consultant is being hired to guide the municipality through the process.
“This gives them a tremendous value in terms of understanding, from a technical point of view, that everything seems to be appropriate from a planning perspective,” said Johnson.
He pointed out that Oak Bay doesn’t have the same size planning department as larger communities such as Victoria and Saanich.
Johnson added that Baptist Housing will pay for the consultant, but that they will report to council. “They very much need to be independent of us and be able to give council unbiased advice.”
There are several significant differences in the new design. The biggest sees two sections of the 320-bed facility lowered to five storeys from six. To make that happen, some services, including the kitchen and a proposed adult daycare, have been relocated into the basement of the central section, which remains at six storeys.
The Cotter Architects design, dubbed Garry Oaks Village, also repositions the buildings so that less of the facility faces Cadboro Bay Road and neighbouring houses on Hampshire Avenue. It’s also more centred on the site to allow for preservation of all but three existing Garry oaks.
Other changes include reducing the site’s access points from two to one by eliminating a proposed Cranmore Road entrance/exit, increasing the number of parking spaces by two to 109 (one for every three beds) and moving the service entrance to a spot where it will have less impact on neighbours.
“We feel this has, from a community point of view, created a very good compromise,” Johnson said.
Though the consultant has yet to be hired – that will happen in the next couple of weeks – Baptist Housing already hosted an open house last Wednesday (Feb. 1) which was attended by close to 50 community members.
At least one neighbour is much more satisfied with the way things are going this time.
“Each neighbour has to speak for themselves, but I think they’ve tried to address most of the issues,” said John Rankin, whose Hampshire Road home faces the Oak Bay Lodge property. “The key concern I had was the process. I’ve always said that if the process is good, I will not object.”
Oak Bay Mayor Nils Jensen said he expects things “will be a lot smoother” the second time around.
“One of the things that we learned last time is that creating an artificial deadline for this important process is not a very good idea,” he said. “We’ll certainly move the process along expeditiously, but not so fast that people won’t have a chance to participate.”
Council expects to choose the consultant at its Feb. 13 meeting, and determine a timeline for the consultation process over the coming weeks.