Although our Oak Bay heritage houses are not missing the boat, our council is. The loss of our heritage to the U.S. and the ever-increasing number of demolitions is mainly due to allowing much larger houses to be built at the very lowest building standards.
In many cases this has resulted in developers building to the maximum allowable square-footage (e.g. big large boxes) while using the cheapest possible materials.
This all started in 2007 when council made a major mistake and changed our very sound zoning bylaw. The result was demolitions, blasting and many big box houses going up.
When many residents complained, instead of rescinding the bylaw, council spent four years studying what they admitted was a problem, before deciding to just scale it back.
This new scaled-back zoning, and a new floor area formula, seems not to have corrected the overbuilding/demolition/heritage loss problem. This may be because: the zoning is too permissive size- and design-wise; council continues to load committees with members who support development; council is ignoring the zoning requirements by continuing to allow many variances; and/or many homes are still being built under the old 2007 rules.
Only time will tell. In the meantime our council is pressing ahead with its expensive development agenda, the design panel continues to approve large boxy structures as “good design” and the demolitions and tree cutting continue – as we wave goodbye to many of our beautiful homes.
Council is currently spending tax dollars, resources and advice on expanding development zoning – that could well make matters worse. Allowing more density may save some heritage homes but it will be at the expense of liveability and will not solve the basic problem of protecting Oak Bay’s homes, tree canopy or character.
Council must re-focus its priorities to accomplish this or we will lose a lot more in the long term.