Some members of council have repeatedly stated that Oak Bay’s zoning bylaws are outdated and have indicated there is an urgency to update them.
They say this is to accommodate the host of residential infill developments they have decided the community needs to move into the future.
To set the stage for this council has arbitrarily changed Oak Bay from a single-family to a multi-dwelling community and developed an extensive Residential Infill Strategy Plan ahead of forming a resident Advisory Planning Commission.
Priorities have been set and the new Strategic Plan and municipal budget has been tailored with a view to accomplishing these residential infill developments on our single-family lots.
While this may appeal to some residents unfortunately, it will impact the majority who wish to maintain their privacy, trees and green space.
There are also many whose lots simply cannot accommodate a basement or garden suite or laneway house etc., but may be impacted by those who can.
There is also the major issue of how this adversely affects our aging infrastructure and the associated costs.
It is imperative then that any bylaw infill change also includes provisions to protect the interests of existing residents who will be negatively impacted by these developments.
Neighbour protection was not included in the 2007 zoning change that allowed many monster houses to be built on small lots.
Council showed no urgency in correcting this oversight when staff identified it as an inconsistency in the zoning bylaw. The correction has just been implemented however it took four years to accomplish. Only time will tell if the new zoning changes have significantly protected neighbouring properties.
The reason for additional concern is council has recently recommended approval of a mid-block lot subdivision on Fair Street – allowing four houses to be built on two existing lots.
Many trees were cut and the developer letter to council states that a big garage that abuts the back of the subdivision property will provide his newly built homes with privacy.
However what the developer does not say is these new homes will take away much of the privacy and views of the standard single-family homes either side of this new subdivision. There will now be a big house instead of a garden next to them.
What is disturbing about this new subdivision, besides being poorly publicized, is it sets a precedent and substantially reduces green space and allows many trees to be cut.
Council somehow missed this privacy contradiction – the developer and new homeowner will get more privacy and the neighbours will get much less.
Council did not comment on these siting issues or address the potential for setting a precedent allowing more similar sub-divisions – likely resulting in more demolitions, loss of neighbour privacy, views and trees.
If this is the transparency, public notification and decision-making process we can expect for future decisions on council’s high-priority residential infill strategy – we will follow the path of many other municipalities who are struggling with the negative community impacts these types of developments result in.