Oak Bay letter: Failing to plan is planning to fail

Views recently expressed in your pages about Oak Bay’s new draft Official Community Plan are untenable both morally and fiscally.

Views recently expressed in your pages about Oak Bay’s new draft Official Community Plan are untenable both morally and fiscally.

Anthony Mears (New OCP may be a developer’s dream, letters, June 6) and Bruce Filan (More people, more problems, letters, June 13) decry the draft’s recommendations that Oak Bay should prepare itself for a modest increase in population, should plan for increased demand for affordable housing and should regulate existing but unpermitted suites, among other provisions.

They want to keep out newcomers, stop new housing development and pretend that the pressures to which the draft OCP responds will not happen, so that the “village” quality of life in Oak Bay can be maintained.

They fail to recognize that change is already happening, and more will inevitably follow. No responsible government at any level, but especially at the local municipal level, can permit the absence of planning that has marked Oak Bay’s governance in recent years, to continue.

The draft OCP explicitly recognizes the existence of many (unregulated and unpermitted) suites in Oak Bay, yet Mr. Mears and Mr. Filan seem to think that turning a blind eye to them will avoid a problem. They ignore the problem of potential municipal liability if a fire should occur in an unregulated suite. They also ignore the need to increase the municipal tax base, through increased housing stock and development of small businesses, to permit fiscal planning to meet future infrastructure demands.

New housing stock and other developments forecast for Oak Bay in the draft OCP will necessitate a more comprehensive approach to planning, regulation and bylaw enforcement. Oak Bay’s current policy of complaint-driven bylaw enforcement (“Power to the Grouch!”) is out of date and patently unfair. So too, is the attitude represented by Mr. Mears and Mr. Filan, that newcomers who cannot afford to buy an existing house in Oak Bay don’t deserve to live here – while those who can afford to buy one and replace it with something larger are not welcome.

Who else is not welcome? And what happens to current homeowners who face income constraints and increasing housing costs?

The draft OCP faces up to challenges that some residents of Oak Bay might want to ignore, and it does so in a responsible way. It represents a significant step towards more effective local government and deserves thoughtful consideration and support.

Alan Breakspear

Oak Bay