The proposal for a new Garry Oak Meadows dementia care facility is a no-go in Oak Bay.
Last night, June 27, council voted down variances required for the 320-bed building proposed by Baptist Housing on behalf of the Vancouver Island Health Authority.
“VIHA should have asked us at the outset what we thought was appropriate on the site,” said Mayor Nils Jensen, who cast the final vote opposed to the variances.
Councillors Kevin Murdoch and John Herbert voted in favour of the height and parking variances required to give the build the go-ahead.
“We must make a decision, we must annoy half the residents to make the other half happy,” said Herbert. “Our job is to support what is good for the entire community and that often makes decisions tough.”
He pointed to reports showing parking and roads are sufficient. He apologized to those who would see more building, as would those in the neighbourhood of the future new Oak Bay High.
Murdoch addressed residents’ concerns that the building would be larger than the new Oak Bay Hotel, pointing out that the current building is larger. The 320 bed requirement drives the size of the proposal, Murdoch said. “Modern standards demand a bigger building.”
Had VIHA chosen a Langford site for the proposed facility, “I think we would have been hugely up in arms,” he added.
Councillors Tara Ney, Cairine Green and Michelle Kirby rounded out the opposed vote.
Most addressed the planning report offered to council last week that “the height of the building does not lend itself to the character of the existing community at its current location.”
“The design and scale is not keeping with Oak Bay and this neighbourhood in particular,” Ney said. “The shoe doesn’t fit. I don’t think this is the right building for this location. … we will get it right.”
Residents’ concerns were confirmed for Kirby with the balloon test that showed the proposed height variance. “I realized the residents were not exaggerating their fears,” she said.
“These are not NIMBY’s. … We need to listen to this voice of the neighbourhood,” Ney said. “We care how change happens.”
The full council agreed that residents are concerned about and support seniors housing.
“Oak Bay residents want to be participants fully and equally in planning their future,” Green said, adding she hopes a new plan emerges. “One grounded in collaborative decision making with the community and municipality.”
Jensen agreed. “It’s time for us to come together and move forward … there are options.”
Coun. Pam Copley did not participate in the discussion or vote, she has previously excused herself citing a conflict of interest.
By the numbers – development variance permits sought
Height: from 10.7 metres to 23.82 m for a 13.12 m variance
Occupiable height: from 4.6 m to 19.22 m for a 14.62 m variance
Parking: from 320 spaces to 109 for a 211 space variance
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