A few thoughts on tonight’s town hall meeting

Mayor and council held a poorly-publicized open house tonight at Windsor Pavillion. Despite that fact, the attendance wasn’t too bad, as about 20 people attended the two hour event. As an open forum, the topics wandered, from tree preservation to secondary suites to improving the website. I did note a few things:

  • Oak Bay’s tree preservation bylaw “scares” a lot of arborists, as it is apparently quite strict. Given how endangered the Garry Oak is, this is probably a good thing. However, whether or not the bylaw going to become a major challenge as our urban forest ages and needs replacement in the next 10 to 20 years is an unknown. The science of tree removal is also not well understood, so some education is going to be needed to help people understand why apparently healthy looking trees are being cut down.
  • The secondary suites committee is finally meeting. This can only be a good thing. Notice of the secondary suite committee will be sent out via property tax notices, which misses renters. However, when I pointed this out, both council and I agreed that there is no good method to reach renters, especially those in existing illegal secondary suites.
  • The website was raised a lot. Yes, I still owe Chris Causton a short page or so about how to improve the website.
  • The room’s layout was very much like a council meeting, with the mayor and council at tables at the front and the public sitting in seats facing them. While it helped focus the meeting, it made it hard for various members of the public to sometimes see and hear the other members of the public were speaking. Alan Cassidy should be praised for choosing not to sit behind a table and Tara and Pam for following suit.
  • The covered bike racks that are likely to go in on the Avenue were mentioned, specifically council was praised for driving that initiative. It does illustrate the woeful lack of bike parking in the municipality and the fact that we don’t even really know where all those racks are and what state they are in.

There is probably a great deal I am forgetting, but all in all, it was a good meeting. I have no idea when the next one is going to be or what sort of format it will follow. I hope we can have a more mingling style social event, maybe with a like/dislike wall and some maps of the municipality. Refreshments would have been nice, even if just a few cookies, drinks, etc. But kudos to the mayor and council for taking the step to be out there in a more informal but planned gathering. I look forward to announcement of the next town hall meeting.

4 thoughts on “A few thoughts on tonight’s town hall meeting”

  1. Interesting post (& site), especially item #1 re. Oak Bay’s trees. I note you say education is needed to help people understand why apparently healthy looking trees are being cut down – but let’s hope education would also prevent some being cut down. May I quote from treewatchvictoria:

    We must not get too stuck on whether a tree is “sick” or “aging.” Trees are valuable at every stage, including when they are rotting and falling down. In a natural ecosystem there’s no one to sweep in and clean up fallen trees which are in fact giving back their substance to the soil in support of new growth. We must beware of trying to cut out this phase of tree life because gnarled old trees whose branches are falling off look somehow unsightly. Nature does have its “untidy” face: growth, maturity and decay comprise her cycles, without which a park, garden or woodland is not healthy. Decaying trees provide the transition to new growth and also provide bird and insect habitat.

    We must leave space for trees to lie down and crumble as well as to stand up like ornaments in rows. We need to preserve large gardens, legislating minimum lot size limits as a tool. We need to designate some neighbourhoods free from housing “infill.” We at Tree Watch hope that Oak Bay, (& Victoria & Saanich) will protect tree-space from subdivision – that’s what will ensure a renewed treescape as old trees gently die.

    Thx, Barbara for Tree Watch Victoria

  2. Barbara, absolutely, I agree with you that trees are valuable at all stages in their life cycle. The discussion on Thursday night revolved around trees on boulevards and/or other types of public property where they might fall and damage cars and/or other property. As such, the issue becomes a legal one once the municipality knows that they are a risk. In such cases it might be an idea to cut the tree down but lay it down in situ, to act as a nurse log. I have no idea if that idea has ever been explored or used anywhere in Greater Victoria.

  3. I know that the arborists in Oak Bay lay down the bulk of a downed tree for nurse logs. They are put in public green spaces, such as alongside Bowker Creek, and the Broughton area pathway.

    And thanks for doing a post about the Town Hall. I was unable to stick around for the whole thing, due to another commitment, so the review was helpful.

    I am happy that they are trying to reach out to the community. I think it would have been much more productive if they’d advertised more and given more notice. I also think that they could have had a volunteer from the audience write down the reasons people came to the meeting, just to get a general idea of what everyone wanted to talk about, break the ice, and focussed the discussion on issues of greatest concern.

  4. Michelle, glad you found it useful. I too am sorry that they really failed to advertise this. The turnout wasn’t bad despite that. I know Allan Cassidy mentioned that he liked the format of pseudo-council meeting rather than a meeting with flipcharts, etc. I personally think we need both kinds, as they attract different sorts and different kinds of ideas generated.

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