Council wants talk to public on Oak Bay Official Community Plan review

Timing of public consultation causes some concern

Oak Bay council wants to hear from residents about what they want to see in the district’s Official Community Plan update.

The question is when.

At its meeting Monday (April 8) Oak Bay council voted to endorse in principle a project charter for updating the OCP, outlining the timeline for the project’s development and public consultation.

Even with a unanimous vote, however, some councillors did take issue with the charter, particularly in relation to public consultation.

Coun. John Herbert was the first to voice concern, expressing a desire for the public open houses to be moved up in the process, both to glean information and to instill enthusiasm in residents for the project.

“I had assumed there would be a series of open community meetings near the very beginning of this process so that they could discuss major issues,” Herbert said.

“I basically feel we should reconsider the timing of these meetings.”

Herbert also asked a planned community survey be expanded to include all residents.

Coun. Kevin Murdoch agreed.

“One of the issues I see here is just the perception of the process, as much as it is the actual process,” Murdoch said. “I am a little worried that we’re setting the stage on this one to antagonize people, for no good reason.”

Coun. Pam Copley, chair of the community plan project advisory committee, urged her peers to approve the charter in principle, even with their concerns.

“I think we do have to be very careful not to lose our focus at this time, because timing is of the essence,” Copley said. “We have essentially a year to complete this very large, comprehensive, complex and important process.”

All agreed these issues would be discussed with the consultant at the next committee meeting, held yesterday (Thursday, April 11). As the charter is a draft, there are still opportunities to change it, with council approval.

“I totally hear the points that are being made,” Copley said. “We will raise them at the committee meeting and no doubt at future meetings as well.”

Some residents at the meeting asked to weigh in, but were told they’d missed their chance when nobody spoke up during the public participation. Mayor Nils Jensen suggested residents come to the committee meeting, where they would be given an opportunity to speak.

The renewal of the district’s OCP is one of the top strategic priorities for council. The committee has had about 10 meetings since August 2012. In February, council approved bringing in a consultant to work with the committee.

A list is in the works of people and agencies to include in a series of 10 visioning sessions. Those people will represent larger segments of the community.

The proposed timeframe for the sessions is May 14 to 22.

The OCP is intended to be completed in late spring 2014.

Floor area review

Running concurrently with the OCP renewal will be the floor area review committee, which will look into the current permitted size of residential homes and come up with possible solutions to identified issues.

The committee will be made up of two councillors, three members of the public with relevant knowledge and the district’s director of planning. The committee is anticipated to meet over a period of three to four months.