Newsletter January 23, 2020
Update Information for Residents:
Council and Staff are back in action after the Holiday Break. Planned were: A Council Priorities Review and a Housing Needs Report Open Meeting. The meetings were planned to receive Community input before “Heading into the Future”:
January 16, 2020: Special Committee of the Whole (COW) Meeting – Agenda item #1 2019-2020 Council Priorities Review.
The Agenda Item #1 title is misleading as the Council Priorities COW meeting reports provide incorrect information. They also include a very large number of priorities - many of which are not the current Council priorities as they were approved by the previous Council.
Three of the previous Council are no longer members of Council and this includes the former mayor who was defeated. It is well-documented that 4 of the previous Council members had a high-densification agenda confirmed by their voting record. Is accepting their priorities to move forward a good idea?
Notation: Densification is listed as the #1 Council priority in the various Strategic Priorities reports provided with the January 16, 2020 Special COW Meeting Agenda. The placement of the Densification Priority category in the number #1 position implies it is the most important.
A Council member queried the significance of the Densification Priorities at the #1 position and was informed all Priorities were equally important. While this could well be true, sequentially they are not. For example, it would be ill-advised to move ahead with the Densification Priorities before tackling the #2 Sustainable Service Priorities: enhance storm, drain and sewers, particularly a large part of the infrastructure budget is going to fix breaks and leaks.
Question: Why did Council even consider many of the Director of Strategic Initiatives priorities when they were approved by a “slim” 4-3 vote by another Council, and 3 of the current Council often did not approve of a number of them?
The January 16, 2020 COW Council meeting has taken place before this newsletter was published. However, it takes considerable time to analyze the staff reports and assess the Council proceedings. There- fore, a report on how Council considers the Council Priorities Review Reports will be provided when this is completed. Most likely this will be when the webcast is available.
January 22, 2020 Housing Needs Report (HNR) Open House:
At the December 9, 2919 Committee of the Whole Meeting Council rejected the Housing Needs Report. The Council rejection followed: a Consultant presentation; the best part of a two-hour debate; a great deal of Council discussion and compelling resident submissions and input. The HNR was subsequently sent back for important revisions (See Appendix #1 December 9, 2019 Committee of the Whole minutes Council required revisions).
The main purpose of the provincially legislated Housing Needs Report is to provide complete accurate demographic information and data relevant to Oak Bay. This will form the basis for the development of an Oak Bay Comprehensive Housing Strategy. Oak Bay does not have to follow the Regional Growth Strategy and can decide what densification it can and wants to absorb.
Two of the main factors for the District to consider is how much densification can the “near the end of life” and already failing infrastructure withstand and a clear picture of who will bear the bulk of the impact costs associated with the Planning Department’s proposed significant land change zoning.
Surely accurate information, carefully considered planning and full disclosure of all the information and negative impacts must be provided “up front” before the any suggested infill or secondary suite, and subsequent single-family neigborhood zoning change of this magnitude is considered?
January 29, 2020 New Tree Bylaw Open House.
There has not been time to adequately assess the full extent of the new tree Bylaw. In 2017 an Urban Forest Strategy was commissioned to address maintaining Oak Bay’s 33% tree canopy. The tree canopy provides not only substantial Infrasucture saving cost benefits but important health and environmental benefits - as well as the many other advantages. It is known many trees, green space and vegetation have been lost, “whacked down” and lots have been paved over to make way for development.
Many trees were on private property, were mature but not counted as tree loss. The same is true for vegetation and green space loss that is also part of the Urban Forest. It is also known tree-replacement saplings can’t come anywhere near compensating for mature tree loss. One large tree provides the benefits of hundreds of sapling replacements that take many years to reach maturity. This information was provided at a Fall 2019 tree symposium - unfortunately, Council members could not attend.
Oak Bay Watch Perspective (Please read on for alarming information)
It seems to us that residents should not have to show up at council, with cap in hand, asking to be included in a Housing Needs Report that will be as important and influential as this one will be.
It was another public engagement disappointment. As indicated in our last newsletter, residents were left out of the Housing Needs Reports list of Stakeholders and the development process. Our concerns are:
- Oak Bay residents will be the most affected by housing need changes that will be decided for them.
- The Urban Matters Consultants that provided the HNR on December 9, 2019 state, “local government-supported, multi-stakeholder engagement is precisely where they work best. Our work is inclusive and aims to incorporate views, opinions and suggestions from a range of sources across the community”. Oak Bay residents did not meet this criterion.
- Many outside agencies were consulted during the HNR development process. Their mandate-directed and understandably-biased housing needs suggestions and recommendations are well represented in the report. In fact, almost 25 % of the main body of the report is dedicated to their input. Their many pages of advised housing needs were provided in 3 District focus group meetings. It is not known if the focus groups were advertised, or if the public was invited.
As indicated It took residents showing up at Council with compelling, persuasive submissions to point out many of the HNR discrepancies and problems and that the public had been shut out of the HNR process.
The HNR doesn’t even meet the Provincial $30,000 public engagement grant requirements that specify community engagement and recommend surveys and engagement activities. The guidelines state higher grant eligibility scores will be given to communities that, “Demonstrated community consultation and public engagement”. It is not known what public engagement commitments the District made to receive the grant if any, however, a $30,000 HNR grant was approved and Oak Bay resident tax dollars kicked in a further $20,000 to complete a process they had no say in developing.
One of the Director of Planning recommendations was for Council to receive the HNR as presented. A Council member, after listening to all the council discussion and resident information, still made a motion to accept the HNR as presented. Fortunately, his motion could not go forward as none of his Council colleagues would second it. The majority of Council rejected the HNR sending it back to staff for important revisions (see Appendix #1)
Oak Bay Watch’s main concern is: if the inadequate Housing Needs Report and its development process is an example of what residents can expect from the Planning Department’s upcoming Secondary Suite Study and Comprehensive Housing Report this is unacceptable.
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Appendix #1: Committee of the Whole January 9. 2019 – Minutes Housing Needs Report excerpts:
Housing Needs Report: Council Modifications Required
An Open House is planned for early 2020, to convey information and findings contained in the Report to the community and to receive any public comments.
Council asked questions of the consultant and staff and discussion ensued, including:
- It was noted that some of the graphs are not mathematically correct and need to be revised.
- Definitions should be added for clarification.
- Many households in the District are mortgage-free and this should be reviewed and added to the Report since it may impact the statistics provided.
- The Report will inform the pending review of secondary suites, housing policies, and housing framework.
- The final report will include an appendix containing the raw data.