Council Alert - Committee of the Whole Meeting
(Item #10 United Church Development Proposal)
United Church of Canada‘s “Affordable Housing” Development Proposal to be discussed at the Committee of the Whole at 7:00 pm Monday January 15, 2018
The last two large developments promoted as “affordable housing” - the Clive and the Bowker/Cadboro Bay 43 Condo Proposal turned out to be any thing but. The Clive rents don’t meet anywhere near BC Housing’s affordable criteria and the Cadboro /Bowker presentation promised that their “affordable” units would start at $400,000. However, they were marketed starting at almost $600,000, in Vancouver and everywhere else, almost before the ink was dry on the four Council members’ recorded vote to approve the project.
It is relevant that a CRD official in addressing Council recently, stated that “affordable housing” would no longer apply to Oak Bay. It is generally understood, that while providing affordable housing is a laudable objective, local governments, already handicapped by limited tax revenue, cannot take on what the Federal and Provincial Governments have the funding, resources and responsibility to do.
Has anyone noticed that:
- The developments Council is approving are getting larger and larger, with more and more “affordable” units?
- The variances requested are calling for more and more Zoning relaxations?
- The Official Community Plan (OCP) is being used as a tool to justify over-building?
- The time period for consideration of these large projects and subdivisions is shrinking?
- This is providing less and less time for the Community to analyze and respond.
- More and more property tax dollars and staff time are being used for these development proposals?
- A great deal of additional pressure is being placed on our infrastructure already in poor condition?
There are so many issues and questions surrounding this project that it is inconceivable that Council is bringing it forward with nothing for the public, or for that matter Council, to consider. (See Appendix 1 for the Community's Brochure and more details).
Granite Street at this location already has a difficult traffic problem and for some years now, residents have being trying to get Council to provide some relief. The problem has become much worse with the Abstract development at Foul Bay Road and Oak Bay Avenue. Removing a traffic lane has intensified what is already a serious “bottle neck at that location. To avoid congestion, more and more cars now routinely shortcut through Granite Street. To add to this, the United Church development alone has the potential to line the neighbourhood’s streets with cars.
Given the number of units the Church intends to build (so far a moving target, presented as 250 /150 /80) this development is way beyond the Mayor’s oft repeated “Reasoned Growth” statement or the OCP commitment to add only 28-36 units annually. Even more reason for concern is the fast tracking of this project. Our 4-3 Council and the supposedly objective Advisory Planning Commission have been moving large developments and subdivisions forward without relevant reports and information.
Could the request for the acceleration of the United Church Project be as a result of the anticipated Community Consultation reforms that the Mayor has mandated his newly appointed Community Consultation Task Force to bring forward for implementation?
There are so many issues, impacts and necessary plans and reports that need to be presented and fully considered before any United Church “Pilot Project”* commitment is made. It would be very cynical and irresponsible for Council to lock the Community into such a commitment before a much broader publication of the facts and public hearing.
Note* “Pilot Project” sounds like a newly-coined development term. Do you wonder if this development euphemism will catch on? Do you wonder if it is development by stealth? The Dictionary defines a “Pilot Project” as:
“A Pilot Project, pilot study, or pilot experiment is a small scale preliminary study conducted in order to evaluate feasibility, time, cost, adverse events, and improve upon the study design prior to performance of a full-scale project.
There is an irregularity in the United Church’s Community presentations, and in the letter from the Church’s Development Representative, Ms. Fowler. Her letter to Council Committee of the Whole basically says: “Give us your acceptance and commitment to rezone so that we can build a large multi-dwelling complex with anywhere from 80 to 250 units (and perhaps some commercial) and then we will let you know what we plan to do”.
Once again we have dissension in the Community due to lack of transparency and a long term Housing Strategy. This should have been completed long before now as promised and, would have indicated exactly how each significant new development would benefit the Community, and what the tax implications were. We have a lot of churches in our Community that provide Community benefits and this is why we provide and have provided tax subsidies. But if we are going to expand on this and allow our churches to engage in real estate and rental businesses, we need to come up with a well thought-out policy agreed to by the community.
The United Church has advised us how their project may meet some aspects of the Official Community Plan and why Council should allow it. However, the Church has not told us what requirements of the Official Community Plan will not be met e.g what Council’s OCP commitments to the Community are.
If Council commits us to this exceptionally large “Pilot Project”, what will the next Full Scale Project look like?
Appendix 1: Brochure Published by the Community