Strategic plan carries financial cost to taxpayers

While we need to plan for the future, any change we make must be on the basis of: is this going to make Oak Bay better and for whom?

The article in the Oak Bay News (May 1) regarding the mayor’s strategic plan raises many questions for Oak Bay taxpayers to consider. Not the least of which is where is all the money going to come from to pay for the planned significant staff increases and consultant services the strategic plan proposes?

The problem is not only are many of these expenditures ongoing, but they are not taking into account the other major CRD infrastructure tax increases the mayor is constantly warning us we can soon expect (sewerage, rapid transit etc).  My understanding during the last election was although we are against amalgamation, we are all for sharing service costs. I don’t see a lot of this happening – in fact the strategic plan seems to be heading us off in the opposite direction.

The deer distraction seems to have sidetracked many from paying attention to what really is going on, for example, the strategic plan calls for, “Earliest planned projects are infill development guidelines and policies to start this spring.” The budget calls for spending $65,000 for consultant services on this – when the public has not yet decided whether infill is a good idea. Spending tax dollars to write policy and using implementation infill language is premature.

The official community plan (OCP) states such a dramatic housing policy –  “Infill Residential” – is only to be “considered” by the public in our single-family neighbourhoods. The OCP also points out the limited fire access requirements and the overwhelming infrastructure costs that would be needed to add these multi-dwellings to single-family lots.

So before spending a whole bunch of money, wouldn’t a better process be to get our already-paid-for planner to look at adverse infill impacts; explain, as council and the OCP promises, how the key issues: noise, traffic, neighbour protections, will be satisfied; estimate the associated municipal infrastructure costs; find out if any suggested conditions are enforceable, e.g. can the number of residents in a small dwelling in your next door neighbour’s yard be legally restricted. Then discuss all this in public sessions to see if this is in fact what residents want in their community.

The mayor says he wants to strengthen and improve livability. Well at the moment there is not a lot wrong with our livability and, as we and many municipalities have already found out, land use changes can have serious unplanned and unwanted consequences. For example, reliable studies show densification does not bring in more revenue, it only raises property taxes. While we need to plan for the future, any change we make must be on the basis of: is this going to make Oak Bay better and for whom?

Anthony Mears

Oak Bay