I would like to express my heartfelt thanks and appreciation to my neighbours and the citizens of Oak Bay who attended the Committee of the Whole meeting on Jan. 15. The request for fast tracking of the Oak Bay United Church development project was a main matter for consideration. This matter drew a crowd of at least 80 people, packing council chambers and leaving standing room only in the hallway. With only 72 hours notice, people felt the need to attend and ensure council noted there are serious concerns with Oak Bay United Church’s proposal, scenarios, plans and processes.
I believe the entire project is, and continues to be, seriously flawed. There is a major financial risk for the small congregation, risk for the municipality should the project stall, an inexperienced development team, neighbourhood concerns that have been ignored and dismissed by the church’s development team during the consultation sessions and finally and perhaps most importantly, the possible squandering of opportunity to build affordable housing that is fully integrated into and fits in with the existing neighbourhood.
It is so wonderful to see people engaged in trying to shape and define our community. Although not perfect, Oak Bay is a unique and special place. The citizenry will work hard to ensure that we preserve many of the characteristics and qualities that define our municipality. People note the quality and beauty of our built and natural environments; these we must steward with great care, consideration and vision for the future. I can not help but wonder how the OBUC project might have taken shape had we clear guidance on the use of P2 institutional land for housing in a comprehensive housing strategy, something promised by Mayor Jensen in 2014.