Major concerns have been expressed over the last number of years from the public, developers, staff and council concerning how Oak Bay processes Land Use Applications Requiring a Public Hearing (the applications process).
Examples include applications for the Oak Bay Beach Hotel, Oak Bay Lodge, Clive and Quest (second time). Future applications are expected for the Oak Bay United Church property, Oak Bay Lodge (second time) and Quest (third time).
The present process is inefficient, costly, divisive and leaves community and developers frustrated, angry and often split.
The municipality is presently preparing a new procedures bylaw governance document, which includes how Oak Bay will address the application process. Unfortunately it does not presently address the public’s complaints or input, and some find the process hard to follow. For a number of these complaints, I offer a suggestion.
Suggestion 1: Council strongly urges developers to hold a well-run meeting to give the community a look at an early stage of planning their proposal, what they are considering and give feedback. (Councilors would be in attendance, along with observers, given the number of applications received this should not be onerous).
Suggestion 2: The Terms of Reference of the Advisory Design Panel and Advisory Planning Commission be modified to allow written and oral public input.
Suggestion 3: The public have the right to speak at council (presently they need the chair’s permission).
Suggestion 4: During a public hearing the public is allowed to give their five minutes to a specific person, so that longer and more meaningful presentations can be made.
Suggestion 5: the status of the application plus relevant documents will be posted on an ongoing basis on the municipal website. One of the elected council members promises was to ensure robust public engagement.
Without the above suggestions being contained in a written protocol I strongly believe the community will turn “thumbs down” on the presently proposed application process.