Residents responded to the 2020 budget questionnaire with submissions that varied from useful, to extraordinary, while some show ongoing values for a staunchly conservative Oak Bay.
On the major issues, residents are content with the levels of service provided by the District of Oak Bay.
A deeper look, though, shows a community with polarized opinions, especially around animals.
Respondents to the survey were almost all from Oak Bay with only six of the 341 submitted from outside the District.
The location of residence was split right down the middle, 168 living north of Oak Bay Avenue and 166 living south of it. Ages were proportionate to Oak Bay’s demographic “with the exception of 45-54 year olds, who were considerably over-represented, and 18-24 year olds, who were under-represented,” said the report.
Among the controversial narratives is a small but vocal support to cull the deer rather than Oak Bay’s new staged approach of using birth control. Oak Bay ended its 2015 deer cull with 11 deer killed amid public controversy and other challenges.
As for the deer population, 54 per cent of respondents believe the number of deer should be permitted to increase. One third are OK with the current population.
Residents were also asked about the number of domestic animals in Oak Bay and ultimately, a total of 73 per cent had no problem with maintaining the current number as 17 per cent supported increasing the number of domestic animals.
However, 26.9 per cent think Oak Bay’s domestic animal population should be decreased, namely dogs and cats as judged by the write-in section.
Dog and cat poop was a particular bugbear of those write-ins. It’s not just the scat left in parks by irresponsible dog owners but ill-discarded poop bags and poop left by roaming house cats that are irritating locals. Some argue to keep dogs off sports fields to keep the playing surface ‘feces’ free, while others wish for additional dedicated off-leash dog parks and that dog owners are “harassed” themselves.
Cats and dogs “harassing” wildlife was also mentioned in the write-ins, with one resident suggesting Oak Bay adopt Calgary’s bylaw that restricts the “nuisance” of cats by limiting them to their owner’s property.
In fact, one of the biggest themes is “enforcement.” Residents used the term 79 times in the write-in answers with almost all of the references requesting additional and more strict enforcement for issues such as dog poop.
In most cases the requests for enhanced enforcement are pet related, such as keeping cats out of yards.
Twenty-four per cent supported increased bylaw enforcement though 61 per cent believed the current level of bylaw enforcement is acceptable. Even more, 59 per cent, supported current levels of parking enforcement (through Commissionaires contract) though 29 per cent asked to decrease it.
Oak Bay’s public art situation was also assessed with more than half, 55 per cent, saying it’s OK as is. Over the past six years the District of Oak Bay has worked to cultivate public art with the Arts Alive program. Yet 34.5 per cent want less.
A common theme in the anti-public art suggestions was to reprioritize the money towards infrastructure and other amenities.
One respondent said, “Developers can sponsor public art as part of a building permit, but the municipality should not.”
Some other write-ins stood out as part of the recent narrative in local media. Three write-ins took the opportunity to request a ban or limitation on the use of gas-powered leaf blowers.
More than 80 per cent of residents supported the current levels of police and fire protection.