OAK BAY opinion: OCP anchored by community says mayor

Council considers our responsibility to serve the citizens of Oak Bay a privilege

Oak Bay is a very special community, and council considers our responsibility to serve the citizens of Oak Bay a privilege.

During the last municipal election, residents called for more involvement in local government decision-­‐making to address evolving community needs. Council listened and responded, inviting the broad community to help renew Oak Bay’s Official Community Plan (OCP).

The provincial Local Government Act requires that OCPs be reviewed and updated periodically as it is a key planning tool, setting out municipal policies to help guide and adapt to evolving community needs over the long term. The OCP ensures that communities throughout the province are compliant with current regulatory, social, economic and environmental standards.

Change is inevitable and it is happening all around us. The intent of the 2014 OCP is to help Oak Bay council guide and manage change, while protecting the community’s unique character and core values.

On June 3, the OCP Advisory Committee (OPAC) chair, Coun. Pam Copley, presented to council a 2014 draft OCP on behalf of OPAC, a committee comprised of citizen volunteers and three councillors who, working together, have devoted hundreds of hours over the past 18 months, empowering the broad community to articulate a common vision for Oak Bay today, and into the future.

The draft OCP highlights the priorities of residents, such as neighbourhoods, streetscapes, heritage, and our natural environment, and helps guide decisions to support a modest increase in density in some areas of our community. Maintaining our population growth targets at 0.5 per cent, as it was in the 1997 OCP, respects considerations for modest density increases. The OCP also helps inform the new provincial requirements under the Local Government Act to recognize housing options as well as land-­‐use allocations. Community plans throughout the province must now include a housing policy that provides for affordable, special needs and rental accommodation. In addition, considerations for climate change must also be reflected, including targets for reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, as well as policies and actions to address those targets. These are very positive and responsible additions that will enhance our community.

OCP renewal is a priority for council.

The 2014 OCP marks the first time in Oak Bay’s history that thousands of citizens have been involved in shaping and informing their community through this OCP renewal initiative. This community-­‐building effort is a proud and important achievement, made possible thanks to the dedication of Oak Bay residents who gave their time, passion and energy to help define and protect Oak Bay’s core qualities and its unique and inclusive character.

Council has directed staff to proceed with the formalization of the OCP. The final OCP, in bylaw form, will be presented to council on June 23 for consideration and first and second reading. A date for a public hearing is expected to be announced at that time. The 2014 OCP will then be posted online and sent out for referral to external agencies for comment as required by the Local Government Act.

– Oak Bay Mayor Nils Jensen