Notes from last nights council meeting

For the second time in a row, a report from the council meeting last night. The meeting was the usual grab bag of stuff such as variance and bylaw approvals, plus the latest chapter in the ongoing saga of the new Sea Rescue boat house. Also discussed but not on the agenda was the latest on sewage treatment. The bench was shy two last night, with both Mayor Causton and Hazel Braithwaite away, leaving Nils Jensen as acting Mayor.

Rough map of Island View Park acquisition
Rough map of Island View Park acquisition

First up was a presentation by the CRD on their acquisition of a piece of land to attach to Island View Park, as they announced last month. The plan involves the piece of land seen on the right, which will then be split up. In very crude terms, roughly the red portion west of the ridge, which is in the ALR, would be sold and the yellow portion added to the park. The total cost would be $4.7 million, of which about half is expected to be recouped via the sale of the western half.  In the end, the council voted for the acquisition.

Next up were block parties. There were quite a few of them. I plan on having a full post with all the upcoming block parties, including maps later this week, but the interesting bit for those wishing to host them is that getting approval might be about to get a whole lot easier. Councillor Jensen asked if staff could handle these requests in the future, which would require rewriting the bylaw, so don’t expect this done until the fall at the earliest.

In new business, Herbert gave a quick update on the sewage treatment. As was covered in the press, the sewage treatment committee has recommended that the CRD go for the 3 site option. Due to the byzantine politics in the region, this doesn’t mean we are necessarily getting 3 plants. The sewage committee only recommends a solution to the whole CRD board and they make the final decision.

Haro Woods - Photo courtesy Cadboro Bay Residents Association
Haro Woods - Photo courtesy Cadboro Bay Residents Association

Adding to the fun are 3 public hearings next week on the potential Haro Woods station (schedule of meetings). Officially these meetings are to discuss a sewage plant in Saanich East or North Oak Bay, but given the CRD already owns the Haro Woods lands, this is kind of a cart/horse thing. Of course, if enough people bitch, another site might get considered. This means that North Oak Bay could get a treatment site and have no public hearings, a fact that made more than one councillor quite annoyed. This isn’t the first time that Oak Bay has been ignored, this happened during the last round as well. In fact, the last time the sewage people were in Oak Bay was in April and over the history of the project they have only come to Oak Bay a half dozen times.

Onwards from sewage brings us to variances to construction bylaws, of which only 2218 Central Ave raised major issues. This is a request to reduce the number of parking spots from the required two to just one. Given parking’s generative effect on traffic, this is a good thing. Sadly, Allan Cassidy didn’t see it that way, asking “what is so wrong with the current bylaw that we keep granting exceptions?” In response, both Jensen and  Ney thought that the whole bylaw should be reconsidered, given that we should be reducing car use and encouraging gardens, not asphalt. We can only hope that this happens. In the end, the variance passed 3 to 2, with Herbert and Cassidy opposed.

During the last council meeting while discussing 2218 Central, it was discovered that any councillor can bring back any motion for reconsideration at the next meeting. This time it was the potential tree bylaw amendment which was defeated on a tie. It allows removal of trees that damage significant structures as well as a blanket provision for council to allow removal of a tree if they feel it harms a residents way of life. Herbert thought that council should have a “sober second look”, which led to much back and forth about “opening the floodgates” for reconsidering bylaws and talk about a general review in the fall. In the end, the whole matter was deferred until they have a whole council there. I predict this isn’t the last time that a councillor brings back a motion for reconsideration and thus won’t be the last time we get to hear Cassidy talk about the “slippery slope”.

Which brings us to the last item of the evening, the new boat house saga. The basics are that the Oak Bay Sea Rescue Society needs a new boat house for the new, bigger boat that they just got. However, given provincial law and zoning, they need a new water lease to build the bigger boat house. The major sticking point is the ability to dock either Sea Rescue’s older boat or a rescued vessel alongside the new boathouse. OB Marine Group doesn’t like because they claim it will constrain their ability to dock vessels near the boathouse. At the end of the night, after discussing and rejecting a compromise that would just allow construction of the boathouse without the mooring, the whole issue will end up a public hearing on June 22nd. Expect a longer piece from me about the whole issue later this week.

There was actually a Times Colonist reporter in the audience last night, a realitive rarity. Apparently this whole boathouse issue is big enough news to get coverage. Given the rumours of the demise of the Oak Bay News, the future of reporting in Oak Bay looks bleak.