Special April 29, 2021 Council Meeting (Appendix #1)
“Transparency Provides Trust, Providing All the Information Provides Trust – Simple as That” Oak Bay Watch
Question: Do duplexes, triplexes, laneway houses, detached suites, heritage home conversions, many more basement suites, small lot subdivisions and townhouses in all Oak Bay single-family neighbourhoods sound to you anything like, the Official Community Plan’s #1 Objective definition “A modest expansion of housing” in all Oak bay singe-family neighbourhoods.
The District’s Administration has consistently ignored public requests to prioritize and address over-built mega houses and the property tax increase crisis. Have they dealt adequately with the infrastructure crisis? Having also withheld reports, can they be trusted to “meddle” with Oak Bay’s zoning bylaw that a Director of Planning has already warned Council is “inconsistent and has allowed overbuilding lots?
As non-transparent as the last Council was, this Council is on track to outdo it in terms of meaningful public engagement. Case in point: The Planning Department with the Chief Administrative officer’s approval has introduced on short notice, a lengthy “Infill Project Charter” that bundles every type of infill development and proposes to allow them in all Oak Bay single-family neighbourhoods.
Definition of a Charter: “an official document setting out rights and duties”, “an authorization”.
This “Infill Project Charter” is essentially a rebranding of the 2016 District promoted Residential Infill Strategy that was rejected out of hand by residents at 2 packed same-day open meetings, on September 10, 2013 at the University of Victoria. (See Appendix #1 for April 29, 2021 Special Council Meeting transparency issues)
“Infill Project Charter” Considerations:
- The wide-reaching Infill Project Charter is to be considered in the middle of a deadly pandemic when public engagement opportunities are very limited and Council can avoid having to engage the public face-to-face.
- The Director of Finance has already made it clear that new development revenue is not keeping pace with the costs of servicing new required infrastructure. Surely Council recognizes that the infrastructure crisis must be addressed first before spending $120,000 tax dollars on consultants and excessive development initiatives that will result in further infrastructure failures and flooding impacts.
- Addressing the inconsistent zoning bylaw must be prioritized before considering this excessive level of development – It is not logical to first prioritize excessive development expansion in Oak Bay’s single-family areas.
- Taxpayers have constantly recommended that a Development Cost Charge schedule and design standards must be approved before considering a development initiative of this magnitude. Many other communities have used these charges to defray property taxes by holding down expenses.
- Even the previous pro-development Council provided residential Infill strategy open houses’ prior to moving forward to an advanced infill development stage.
- Where is the Council commitment to provide the infill development questions ahead of the planned infill survey? It was intended that the newly formed resident Advisory Planning Commission would also review these questions.
- Municipalities do not apply fees generated from new development to planning department budgets, and than claim as some councillors have, the Department is cost-neutral. The purpose of this funding is for the inherent new infrastructure impacts – Oak Bay staff have pointed out this is not enough to cover these costs. Existing taxpayers will be expected to provide this significant expenditure.
Reading between the lines the Infill Project Charter justifies moving forward with infill development in single-family areas by selective quoting from the Official Community Plan (OCP) 4.3.2 H12. The Report conveniently, or perhaps intentionally, leaves out the second half of 4.3.2 H12 that states: “prior to considering infill housing (the purpose of the “Infill Project Charter) the District will need to develop criteria and guidelines with which to review proposals and evaluate their contextual fit in consultation with the public.”
Reading between the lines the Infill Project Charter justifies moving forward with infill development in single-family areas by selectively quoting from the Official Community Plan (OCP) 4.3.2 H12. The Report conveniently, or perhaps intentionally, leaves out the second half of 4.3.2 H12 that states: “prior to considering infill housing (the purpose of the “Infill Project Charter) the District will need to develop criteria and guidelines with which to review proposals and evaluate their contextual fit in consultation with the public.”
The Planning Department’s Infill Project Charter Report also conveniently leaves out OCP 4.3.1 (1) Page 77, “Support a modest expansion of housing within Oak Bay while addressing concerns such as tree protection (infrastructure capacity) parking, traffic, noise, effects on other properties and neighbourhood character.”
Oak Bay is spending a million dollars annually on its expanded Planning Department. It therefore seems reasonable for residents to expect that the Department will follow the OCP requirement: “develop criteria and guidelines with which to review proposals prior to considering infill housing.” Spending $120,000 of precious taxpayer dollars on a consultant before this Official Community Plan requirement is satisfied is not in the public interest.
This Council and the Administration continue to make a habit of failing to prioritize crises or to prioritize them in a logical sequence. Therefore, the question is why, with a year and a half left in their term, would this Council embark on and seek to approve such a dramatic land-use zoning change, knowing that a new October 2022 Council will have to deal with the impending harmful impacts: The OCP defines as “as tree protection (infrastructure capacity) parking, traffic, noise, effects on other properties and neighbourhood character”.
The Council April 29, 2021 Council meeting agenda was announced at 1:04 pm on April 27, 2021 and is to be discussed at a special council meeting.
Note: That this problematic “Infill Project Charter” consideration process provides only a very short notice weekday timeline. A timeline during which many residents work. This means they would have limited time to review and respond to this important character changing, land change impact document. The Council meeting time has also been switched from the usual 7pm to 6pm. Additionally, if transparency had been a consideration, a Committee of the Whole Council meeting would have been much more appropriate for this Agenda item as public engagement time is not limited.
It is a safe bet the planned “Stakeholder” (read Developers and special interest groups) will face no such restrictions.