Letter: Call for housing stragety in wake of church land proposed development

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The Oak Bay United Church is in the process of converting most of its land from institutional use to apartment use. It seems the new Official Community Plan will allow this conversion through vague provisions that allow for affordable housing to be considered a public amenity along with the relaxation of most normal zoning restrictions such as height, size of unit, parking, site location, and the like.

I find it hard to believe that the authors of the new OCP envisioned such major conversions of institution zoned land to residential use with so little non discretionary oversight. While I understand affordable apartments are needed in Greater Victoria, and I understand the church could use the income coming from such conversion, so too are areas needed for the provision of normal institutional type services, if not immediately then perhaps in the future.

Once land is converted to residential use it is very unlikely that it could be converted back to providing religious, recreational, educational, cultural or other such public uses. As there is very little of this type of land available in Oak Bay there should be careful management of such major conversions. For example if Oak Bay had allowed the school board to convert the Uplands school to residential housing some years back this land would have been lost forever for educational needs that will very likely be needed in the future. Oak Bay residents should be consulted through the development of a housing strategy which among other things would spell out qualifying criteria, specific zoning requirements, how a project will relate to other OCP provisions and the like for any major institutional conversions. I have urged the council to put on hold any consideration of a major conversion of institutional land until such matters are examined and decided on.

Wayne Todd

Oak Bay