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Council rezones refugee house in Oak Bay Village

Oak Bay business association still waiting for parking lots
Executive director David Lau, of Victoria Immigrant and Refugee Centre Society, in an upstairs bedroom of the Monterey house, adjacent to Theatre Lane, where immigrants and refugees can soon live while settling in Canada. (Travis Paterson/News Staff)

Oak Bay council approved the necessary rezoning for the renovated Monterey Avenue home where Vancouver Island Refugee Centre Society can house new Canadians.

A public hearing for the decision took place on Jan. 14 and was voted ahead on Jan. 25.

With the charitable help of local businesses and volunteers, and VIRCS’s own time, the two-storey house has been converted to have multiple bedrooms. However, it needed to rezone from the single-family zoning that limited it to one family and shift to “congregate” housing. It is designed to accommodate two live-in staff and eight tenants.

The house is one of two homes owned by Oak Bay along Theatre Lane that are currently leased to VIRCS. The other is on the Hampshire Road end and is housing a family.

READ ALSO: Oak Bay home ready to house refugees, immigrants

Dozens of locals submitted their support in writing ahead of the Jan. 14 hearing.

There was also a request from Oak Bay Business Improvement Association to “emphasize” that the two homes, which are housing new Canadians, were earmarked for the expansion of Oak Bay Village.

Oak Bay bought the Hampshire property in 1990. It was considered as a parking lot in 2007 and again in 2012.

Oak Bay bought 1538 Monterey in 2016 for $1.7 million. The site is a double lot.

READ MORE: Victoria immigrant centre’s refugee housing lands in Oak Bay

Martin Cownden of the Oak Bay Business Improvement Association summed up the concern that no one will want to displace the VIRCS tenants when the current lease comes up for renewal in 2023.

“We ask you to relocate the activities currently in use at these properties to another location within the district at the conclusion of the lease,” Cownden said.

He also referenced the looming Oak Bay Village plan, and the limited opportunities to grow the village, siting the two Theatre Lane properties as potential parking lots.

“Housing for less fortunate people is a commendable cause but we don’t wish to lose sight that these properties were assumed to be used for the expansion of the village area, and that monies contributed are still in trust,” Cownden said. “How do you ever unscramble this egg?”


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