A local group of knowledgeable and concerned citizens are reaching out to council to help protect Oak Bay shorelines.
The Shorelines Development Permit Area (SDPA) was established under the Official Community Plan in 2014, to protect and preserve Oak Bay’s shorelines by restricting development within the 15 metre strip of land along the shore.
According to the group of residents, it has not been effectively implemented and new developments have not adhered to the guidelines. The group is offering guidance to council on how to best implement it through educating landowners and developers of their responsibilities, and having deterrents and consequences to ensure protection and enhancement of the shoreline.
“What we would like to see is Oak Bay implementing the SDPA properly.” says Lehna Malmkvist, a resident and biologist involved in shoreline work in the CRD. “So the first part is informing and educating landowners, and then moving forward, using what is called the Green Shores Program to make sure that new developments are informed well ahead of time and understand their responsibilities when they are developing these shoreline properties.”
The results of the Official Community Plan (OCP) survey show that the Oak Bay community places high value on the natural environment. A majority of respondents (60 percent) listed protect and manage shoreline as a priority. Residents recognize that environmental conservation, with public and private stewardship, is important to sustaining the natural beauty of this community.
It is not just about protecting the aesthetics, but also the stability of the shores. Erosion and damage from storm surges due to climate change can significantly affect property values and municipal infrastructure. Protecting the integrity of the shoreline can help mitigate disaster and save homeowners and the municipality money.
“The Green Shores is a relatively new standard that has been recognized all over British Columbia but is new to Oak Bay,” says Anita Wolfe, resident and Living Building Challenge Ambassador. “The nice thing is that it is not expensive to do, it looks beautiful, and it enhances the value. We can do this. It is actually cheaper. If we don’t do this, there are significant consequences. There is a financial cost, there is an environmental cost, and there is also a legal cost.”
The group is proposing a draft of an information package that would go to all waterfront property owners, all developers and real estate companies doing business in Oak Bay, and applicants of permits for waterfront properties. The package would explain the ecological importance of the shoreline, the effects of past developments, the Green Shores approach, and residents/developers responsibilities.
They also recommend that council and staff implement significant consequences for those that do damage to the SPDA as a result of permitted or not permitted work. The group says that the fines should make destruction of the protected area cost prohibitive instead of “the cost of doing business.”
David Anderson, former MP for Oak Bay, former federal Minister of Environment and of Fisheries and Oceans, and a member of the concerned group of residents says, “as a frequent kayaker along Oak Bay shores I have seen first hand the appropriation by waterfront properties of the public’s foreshore. Inappropriate retaining walls, rocks dumped on beaches, and vegetation removed from the foreshore strip are now, sadly, common features. It is high time for Oak Bay to put an end to this alienation – theft – of public property.”
“The shoreline infrastructure in Oak Bay, and in Greater Victoria in general, was designed in another era. It is not at all ready for the future with rising sea levels. Now is the time to start planning on building something smarter,” says Jacques Sirious, chair of the Friends of Victoria Harbour Bird Sanctuary.
At the Nov. 27 meeting, council indicated support for the inclusion of a presentation on foreshore protection tools and Green Shores development guidelines at the 2018 AVICC Conference.