Council Report: Special Council Meeting - May 6, 2019
This Report is divided into two parts. It is strongly recommended that, when convenient you read all the material. Some of it is provided by Oak Bay residents. The important information that is included will affect your and our Community’s future.
Part #1 Municipal Auditor’s Report
Agenda Item #1: Presentation of the 2018 DRAFT Financial Statements and Audit Findings Report.
The Auditor’s message was not good news regarding the District’s financial position. This is the result of the many years of not charging developers for the impacts their developments cause. Other municipalities use these substantial funds to control their property tax increases and improve their infrastructure and amenities (roads, storm drains, sewers, parks etc). In Oak Bay existing residents have been forced to pick up the tab. The annual tax increase that is averaging almost 6% confirms this, culminating in 2019’s incredible 8.3% spike. This situation is a public scandal.
Most of Council seems unconcerned and perhaps this is why the five Council Finance meetings to date (including a town hall) and this year’s excessive tax increase have been so poorly advertised and such limited financial information provided.
It was regrettable that this important Council Meeting was also poorly advertised and that Staff have regularly switched Council Meeting start times with no “Alert Notification”. An effortless courtesy to residents who wish to attend or watch webcasts and, also a generally accepted practice. How difficult would it be it to provide a “ Please note time of Council meeting” in the Council Meeting announcement? Particularly in the case of a meeting where the Municipal Auditor has been invited to speak to the District’s financial situation.
The Municipal Auditor did not go so far as to say that, without collecting millions from development cost charges and amenity contributions, and spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on consultants and expect to have the necessary funding for Park Projects, and infrastructure, as well as for needed District improvements, tree protection, and more bylaw enforcement. Had she been asked, her opinion could well have been along these lines, based on experience with other Municipalities.
Part #2 The Planning Department ‘s Secondary Suites Initiative
Agenda Item #2: Secondary Suites: This Item provided the Director of Building and Planning’s Memorandum entitled, “Process and subsequent Approvals of Secondary suites and general information….”
Agenda Item # 8: This Item was entitled, “To Integrate Secondary Suite Implementation in Conjunction with Comprehensive Housing Study". Oddly the two Secondary Suite Items #2 & #8 were separated by 3 multiple Tax Bylaw Readings and discussion. While the two agenda items might appear complementary, they are actually at variance and should have been appropriately grouped together.
Agenda Item #2: The Planning Director’s Memorandum included a chronology; a sequence of Council directions for secondary suites beginning in 2017. For some reason the Planning Director’s secondary suite chronology omitted the September 2017 Community and Council rejection of infill including suites at the Planning Department’s University of Victoria (UVIC) open meetings. Almost all residents attending the two packed meetings made it quite clear an infill/suite land-use change was not wanted in Oak Bay. Councillor Zhelka had previously explained to the Director of Planning at a Council Meeting that both the UVIC resident infill rejection and its resulting outcome - the cancellation of the Residential Infill/ suite Strategy, had somehow not been included.
Agenda Item # 8: This Item provided Councillor Zhelka’s Resolution – “That the final Approvals Terms of Reference phase of the Secondary Suite Study be deleted and that Council consider recommendations for this final phase of Secondary Suites in conjunction with the Housing Needs Report”
What is also difficult to understand is the terminology that is constantly used by the Planning Department to promote amending the current zoning to allow more secondary suites. The language used is misleading and biased as it implies a Bylaw change has been already been approved. Examples are:
- “Subsequent Approvals of secondary suites”
- “Integrate Secondary Suite Implementation’
- “Terms of Reference; Final Approvals” phase #5
Councillor Zhelka’s motion was simply to clear up any ambiguity and confusion that some Council members may have had about the Terms of Reference Phase 5 that contains an “Approvals stage”. The original motion said, “with the stated goals of creating a public engagement plan”. Councillor Zhelka made it perfectly clear at Council on May 6th that what was needed was providing all of the disadvantages, as well as the already-promoted advantages, and then hearing public viewpoints. This has to be accomplished first and, furthermore, this was the only Council “approval” to date.
The second part of Coucillor Zhelka’s resolution, “Secondary Suites in conjunction with the Housing Needs Report” speaks to an adequate Public Consultation process timeline and the requirement for balanced content. So far, however, very little comprehensive information about the impacts of amending the existing zoning Bylaw (that already allows suites, rental accommodation and additional income) has been provided (see following excerpt from a letter to the Oak News excerpt and Appendix # 1 - An Informative resident’s submission and an informative letter to Council as well as additional information).
Letter to Editor: Oak Bay News, April 26, 2019 (excerpt)
"Your comprehensive article about Secondary Suites in the Apr 24 paper left the readers with the misconception that suites are neither legal nor regulated in Oak Bay. This may have led suite owners and tenants to worry that they are breaking the law.
The fact is that Oak Bay was one of the first Districts in BC to legalize and regulate Secondary Suites back in 1942. This so that residents could quickly and legally "board" all of the workers and spouses that flocked to Victoria because of the Second World War escalation. Most existing suites in Oak Bay are legal (though non conforming due to changes in the building code). The bylaw officer enforces the rules on a complaint basis". The rule of thumb is that a kitchen stove turns a "boarding" suite into a disallowed "family" suite. Disallowed because that would put two families on a lot zoned for a single family.
Result: Some Councilor's were "hesitant " to remove "Approvals" from the Terms of reference and the resolution was tabled for a rewrite with staff input.
Oak Bay Watch’s Perspective (Read on for much more Public Interest information)
The current Zoning Bylaw permits a secondary suite. Therefore the presentations by the Planning Department are misleading and incomplete. For example they do not explain that the current Zoning Bylaw allowing secondary suites would have to be amended to:
- Change all of Oak Bay from a singe-family zone into a 2 family zone.
- Remove the two unrelated tenant limit,
- Allow Vacation Rentals by Owner businesses and,
- Remove the present safety requirement.
Council Report may 6, 2019 - Zhelka ResolutionSuch changes are being proposed before ensuring that: the infrastructure and tax system can support a larger “no additional taxation” population; environmental impacts will be mitigated; more parking and traffic will not be problematic; more trees and green space will not be lost and tax increases will not be necessary to finance adequate inspection, enforcement and administration costs.
The current Planning Department’s Secondary Suite timeline, suspiciously, is almost identical to the rejected UVIC Resident Infill process and timeline. Perhaps Planning thought residents would not notice. The timing of the Secondary suite schedule is certainly inconsistent with addressing all of the necessary groundwork and improvements that need to be financed and implemented before more non-taxable suites are encouraged.
It has often been said Oak Bay takes a long time to change things. While this may be true, it certainly can be applied to: charging developers development cost charges for the impacts they cause; fixing the infrastructure; strengthening the tree bylaw and implementing the four pages of recommendations in the Urban Forest Strategy and fixing the broken Zoning Bylaw that allows so much paving and over-building on lots that so many residents have complained about over the years.
It was pointed out to Oak Bay Watch by a previous property management consultant that removing the present secondary suite restrictions will lead to more demolitions in Oak Bay. A Two-Family, Multi Tenant Zoning amendment will provide more profit for the Development and Real Estate Industry. Adding a multiple tenant suite, or an Airbnb suite brings a significantly higher asking price and an increased real estate commission. This will result in residents, not only having a big box house built next door that impacts their privacy, views and sunlight, but more cars as well as the tenants.
In the event Council were to decide that a change to Councilor Zhelka’s resolution were necessary and the public given an opportunity to speak to Councillor Zhelka’s resolution, Oak Bay Watch would have suggested the reasonable amendment below that should have been acceptable to all.
This is such a major land use change that Council and most residents know it is a highly contentious Community issue. This has been confirmed twice now by Community rejections of the Secondary Suite/ infill Bylaw amendment in 2010 and at UVIC in 2017. Therefore, a simple solution that would reflect this balance would be to add the following sentence to the Secondary Suite terms of reference that states, “Phase 5 Approvals - final report to Council for approval process” / “or rejection by the Community as residents may determine this Zoning amendment is not in their best interests”.
The Community does not need subtle, subliminal “Approval Messages” that imply a secondary suite decision has already been made. We are still puzzled as to why Council is allowing the Planning Department to spend so much time and so many tax dollars on this intensive development initiative to the detriment of much higher priority issues. Particularly at this point, when the Municipal Auditor has explained that the District has a poor financial standing? Why in July 2018 two Council members, Mayor Murdoch and Councillor Braithwaite who voted to reject the Planning Department‘s Terms of Reference presumably as they were not happy with their content, did not jump at the chance to approve Councillor Zhelka’s resolution.
Oak Bay Watch requests that residents who are aware of how out of sequence such a secondary suite Bylaw Amendment would be, and want to see much more urgent priorities dealt with first, please be prepared to show up when the opportunity arises and make your viewpoints known.
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Please read the following 2 Oak Bay residents informative submission and letter – names provided on Municipal Website. Note: for some reason, and breaking with convention, the letter was provided as:
CORRESPONDENCE - UPCOMING AGENDA ITEM(S):
3. Correspondence received
It is not clear why staff would scatter Councilor Zhelka’s resolution, resident letters, reports, memorandums, and a chronology throughout the Council Meeting in 3 different agenda items.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------The points made in the following correspondence by residents to Council received no recognition from Council member's with the exception of Councillors Zhelka and Paterson.
Resident Submission: May 5, 2019
"Re: Council meeting – May 6, 2019 - Agenda Item 2 – Secondary Suites
Dear Mayor and Council,
Please accept the comments and suggestions below. I understand that the Director of Building and Planning's memo points out where the District stands in regards to “secondary suites”. He offers you two options, as follows:
1. To proceed with the Terms of Reference agreed upon with Urban Systems as contracted last September (or not) and get to a point where a final product will be delivered to council in 12 - 14 months for approval. Then staff would implement a secondary suites strategy in - house; OR
2, To amend the contract already awarded to Urban Systems. “Secondary suites” would be dealt with within the scope of an encompassing “housing needs strategy”. After reading Mr. Anderson’s memo I concluded that:
- The overall assumption is that the current contract with Urban Systems (Secondary Suites) will result Only in a final document with guidelines and steps to legalize and regulate suites throughout Oak Bay.
- The premise of the Secondary Suites contract and the resulting strategy is based on: “let’s legalize suites now”. It is not: “Is it viable and what are the trade-offs of legalizing suites in Oak Bay?”
Mr. Anderson, although seeking direction, is also suggesting Council approve TWO concurrent contracts, one for secondary suites and another for housing needs. I urge you not to go in this direction. There are a number of reasons for that. Here are a couple of them. Once completed, be it one or two “strategies” (secondary suites and/or housing needs), these strategies: a list of concrete “implementation items”, with timelines. Those “implementations items” are tasks that require time and money to be completed before a project can be finalized and shovel ready to be executed.
These tasks often compete with other municipal priorities. Unlike what Mr. Anderson is suggesting, it is highly unlikely that staff alone will be able to review, draft new policies and bylaws (e.g. building, zoning, etc) and deliver “implementation items” without compromising their daily workload. This has been historically the case. To be properly put in place, a fair and up - to-date secondary suites program will require hours of legal fees and additional consultant work after the Final Strategy (Phase 5) is completed. The Building and Planning Department will need to take a few extra steps before it gets to a point where “implementation” of a /the secondary suites program can be “managed in house” (operationalized).
There is a big gap between what has been called “Final Strategy” (Urban System final product) and Approvals (daily operation of a secondary suites program): to structure an entire program (i.e. address every single step and comply with prerequisites already known and others to be identified by Urban Systems.
There are currently a Strategies sitting on the District’s shelves, with concrete “to do lists” that have not been delivered by staff for various reasons (e.g. pertaining indicators/ OCP, Age-Friendly, Urban forest) all of which developing a consistent long-term housing plan, fixing our zoning bylaw and carrying out periodic assessment of service levels. The District has often set the “to do list” aside due to staff work overload claims; requests for consulting service are not unusual. Implementing secondary suites in house will be no different.
The memo before you is not realistic as far as implementation of a /the secondary suite program goes. A significant amount of taxpayer’s dollars will be required for after the Strategy is delivered. Taxpayer’s dollars must be maximized. Unfortunately, Mr. Anderson’s arrangement falls short in this regard. My point is: Instead of hiring two contracts, I suggest you direct staff to merge secondary suites and housing needs into the existing contract with Urban System.
The dollar amount allocated for a second contract will be needed for the implementation piece of the recommendations (“to do list”, “implementation items”) resulting from the housing needs/secondary suites Final Report. Duplicity of work, waste of staff time and taxpayers’ dollars are inevitable should secondary suites and housing needs are contracted out separately (two contracts). This will certainly be the case should the successful bidder of the first contract (Urban Systems) also wins the second contract.
Finally, I take this opportunity to remind you that the issue you have before you was the number one issue and the very topic that resulted in OB shifting its leadership - Mayor and Council - by an unprecedented number of votes. By that I mean that your platforms were very clear as far as where you stand regarding the topic before you. There is or there should not be any reason for this conundrum to be reopened, once more, other than a bizarre show of forces between council, staff and the APC. Decision was made in October. The community feels Oak Bay needs a housing strategy, which a secondary suites program may be a part of. Please kindly consider directing staff to amend the terms of reference of the current contract with Urban Systems".
Resident: South Oak Bay
Resent letter to Council: May 5, 2019
Mayor Murdoch and Council
District of Oak Bay
Re: Councillor Zelka's Resolution to Integrate Secondary Suite Implementation in Conjunction with Comprehensive Housing Study
Dear Mayor Murdoch and Council
The purpose of this letter is to support Councillor Zelka's proposal (Item 7. May 6th, 2019 Council Agenda). The Report to Council on Secondary Suites / Infill Housing Options Process – PLP00007 of March 4 by the Director of Building and Planning outlines the process of Secondary Suites feeding into the Housing Needs Report (HNR) and the latter feeding into Infill Housing Options. But none of these can stand alone nor is it a one way process. Indeed the Secondary Suites process will provide information to the HNR, but equally, judging by the legislation and the required “Contents of the HNR”, the HNR will inform Secondary Suite Decisions too. Secondary Suites are only one way to improve housing and we must not approve implementation until the final mix of housing is agreed by the residents through consultation. To do otherwise is to put the horse before the cart.
• Statements about key areas of local need, including affordable housing, rental housing, special needs housing, seniors housing, family housing, and shelters and housing for people at risk of homelessness.
• The number of housing units required to meet current and anticipated housing needs for at least the next five years, by housing type. Housing ‘type’ is defined as dwelling size (number of bedrooms).
• The number and percentage of households in core housing need and extreme core housing need.”
How can know what 'holes are to be filled' and blithely implement any option including secondary suites if we don't have a clear picture of our current housing mix/stock? Both Secondary Suites and the HNR should be evaluated together at the very least. Surely there is a need to understand the full Housing Framework before pursuing any one or more options (such as Infill Housing, renewal or re-use of the Oak Bay Lodge or other housing options such as Oak Bay's two houses leased for refugees?).
Indeed, there is a strong case to be made to delay any decision on Secondary Suites implementation until various forms of housing and zoning have been studied (e.g. think of the potential for complex /overlapping zoning conflicts and outcomes in a piecemeal approach), not to mention the enormous financial considerations (e.g. licence and inspection fees for suites and for other forms of housing in lieu of taxes) and the many other implications and unintended consequences that need consideration before hastily taking housing decisions.
Our municipality needs decisions made in a rational sequence given the enormous potential to change the very fabric and entire character of this municipality forever.
I urge Council to adopt Councillor Zelka's Resolution as a first step in determining a Framework of Housing in Oak Bay.
Thank you for considering this viewpoint.
Oak Bay Resident