In Quotes: Tonight’s council on Oak Bay Lodge and Uplands sewage

As will undoubtedly be reported tomorrow in the TC, Oak Bay Council elected to delay the Uplands sewage project, mostly by simply deciding to not do anything. This almost certainly means that that the grant from the federal and prov. governments is gone, as is a low-pressure system. What it means beyond that isn’t certain. As I mentioned earlier in the day, also up was a presentation by VIHA on Oak Bay Lodge as well as a few other things. I will do some more reporting on them tomorrow, but tonight I thought I would share with you a few of the choicer quotes from the evening:

Building a new facility [to replace Oak Bay Lodge] is the best use of resources

VIHA CEO Howard Waldner, on whether or not replacement is a better option to refurbishment

It is a matter for the new owner and [Oak Bay] council

CEO Waldner, essentially dodging VIHA’s responsibility in determining the best use of the Oak Bay Lodge lands

We have no knowledge of that

Waldner on the reported hard-ball tactics that property owners adjoining Oak Bay Lodge have been receiving

We [Oak Bay Council] have also received an imperative from Uplands residents: no pumps

Councillor Cassidy on the provincial/federal imperative to separate the Uplands sewage system

We [Oak Bay Council] should have said no

Councillor Herbert on what they should have told the province when the deadline was moved back to 2011

Whether we like it or not, it has to be done

Councillor Jensen on the inevitability of sewage separation

We [Oak Bay Council] haven’t heard from the rest of the community

Councillor Ney on consulting the wider Oak Bay community on the Uplands sewage project

It was easier to ask tough questions about Oak Bay Lodge

Councillor Copley at the start of her remarks on sewage treatment. Copley has a parent in Oak Bay Lodge

I would have liked to have a more made-in-Canada solution

Copley on the usage of American-made pumps in the proposed low-pressure system

Gas lights were once the gold standard

Councillor Braithwaite on the “best” sewage system for the Uplands

If there is any fault in communication, it always comes back to the mayor

Mayor Causton’s mea culpa on the public consultation side of the Uplands sewage treatment project

I don’t want any of the comments by council to reflect badly on the staff

Causton praising staff and consultants on their work on the sewage issue, after council essentially voted to defer the issue by merely receiving the report recommending a low-pressure system without further action

Sewage, Oak Bay Lodge and more at tonight’s council

Tonight’s council agenda (PDF) is very full and with the dual contentious issues of Uplands sewage and Oak Bay Lodge, it should be interesting. First up is VIHA with a presentation on what happens with Oak Bay Lodge, which is likely to be followed by some interesting debate amongst council members, who haven’t yet stated any formal positions on the matter.

This is also the night for deciding on Uplands sewage, after last Wednesday’s marathon until almost midnight. Councillor Cassidy has already stated his position on supported a gravity feed system over a low-pressure one, but none of the other councillors or the mayor have been that explicit. The choice is a tough one, because the gravity system likely requires a tax increase, ballparked in the neighbourhood of 10% per household for the entire of Oak Bay but the low-pressure system is nearly universally opposed by Uplands residents and requires ongoing maintenance.

Also up on the agenda are the transportation priorities committee, which Councillor Jensen has proposed, the usual host of property bylaw variances, a request from the Oak Bay Lawn Bowling Club for financial assisstance (something not likely to meet favour with Councillor Braithwaite, who feels Oak Bay gives enough to the club already, given it’s membership), and the potential of hiring a consultant to work with the school district on the Oak Bay High replacement project.

I suspect that it might just be a little busy tonight, so if you want to come, make certain you arrive early to get your seat.

Uplands and their sewage, again

The Uplands sewage plan again drew a packed room last night, this time in the much Garry Oak Room of Monterey Centre. As the Times Colonist reports, scores of speakers, largely from the Uplands, were solidly opposed to the plan. Although the minutes of this meeting won’t be ready for some time, if you want to get an idea, much of it was also said at the Dec. 14th meeting, which does have minutes online (PDF). In the end, council opted to defer a decision, but not before Coun. Cassidy registered his opinion that gravity treatment was the way to go. The full vote is expected at the next council meeting, to be held on Monday, Jan 11th at 7:30pm at Municipal Hall.

Happenings this week

Lots of interesting things happening this week, including UVic (and thus me) heading into the spring term on Monday. Other events include:

Funeral procession for Lt. Nutall, from McCall Brothers to Christ Church Cathedral. Starts between 11:45 and12:15. Further details in TC story.

Special Oak Bay Council session on the Uplands Sewer Project. Full Agenda here (PDF). 6:30pm in the Garry Oak Room in Monterey Centre (by the library)

All Week:
IIHF Hockey Championship in Saskatchewan. Full Schedule.

Daily news roundup

  • The sewage issue continues to barrel along, with a decision expected by Wednesday. The latest twist is that a proposed plant may straddle the border between the new CRD land and the existing Saanich land. Both the Times Colonist and the News Group aka Oak Bay News have stories on this and if you want to
  • Although both View Royal and Oak Bay continued their composting trial, there is no sign of it spreading to other parts of the region. However, there are plenty of other options, as the Times Colonist pointed out today.
  • Due to a power failure, one of the keynotes at the just-finished Canadian Institute of Planners AGM in Niagara was done by candle-light. Unexpected irony as the theme was coping with climate change.

Transit & Rail

The ridership risk of introducing the 12 Kenmore is not that performance targets for community bus could not be met, but rather than at key school oriented times, community bus capacity would be exceeded requiring the introduction of conventional transit vehicles on this route.

  • Come January there will be a whole pile of new services, including the new Dogwood Line, late night buses and more service hours. See the Transit Commission report (PDF) for more. The Dogwood Line is the first attempt at a B-Line style bus route in Victoria, which is a good thing, especially given just how busy the bus routes to UVic from Downtown are.

Provincial and Federal governments hand out loot

It is the season for giving, being a recession with Keynes back in and Friedman out, so today the two senior levels of government did just that. Or at least, so says their rather triumphant press release. Sadly (or not, depending on your point of view) there is no money for a new Johnson Street Bridge, but plenty of other things did get money:

  • Our fine municipality got money for the Uplands sewer upgrade. The joint storm/sewage sewers are the main reason behind our eye-popping $700/yr property increase for the new sewage treatment, so this money, an even matching grant between the municipality, the feds and the provinces, will help all of Oak Bay taxpayers.
  • The Kinsol Trestle rehabilitation in the Cowichan Valley got almost $6 million to complete this link of the Trans-Canada Trail.
  • Despite the government cutting library operating funds, two libraries in Surrey and Saltspring Island got funding for new buildings.
  • The only even remotely transit related project is a Highway 7 Bus Lane in Pitt Meadows. Guess we aren’t going to meet our climate goals after all.
  • Sidney got some money for a Lochside Waterfront Trail, likely the project mentioned on this website and in these 2006 council minutes (PDF).

All in all, the majority of the funding seems to be for sewers and highways, with a scattering of arts centres, libraries and other bits and pieces.

Oak Bay sewage forum tomorrow night

After popular demand by our very own John Herbert, the CRD has added a public consultation in Oak Bay tomorrow evening at Emmanuel Baptist Church (2121 Cedar Hill X Rd (google map), right by the entrance to UVic) between 3pm and 8pm. As Cllr Herbert said:

“If they’re proposing to have one of these sites in Oak Bay, then they need to have a meeting in Oak Bay to allow the residents to have their say.”

While I disagree with John Herbert on a great many issues, this is one of the few of them that we actually agree on. See you all tomorrow night.

Possible sewage treatment location in Oak Bay

The CRD has now identified the three possible locations for the Saanich East/Oak Bay North sewage treatment plant and one of them is in Oak Bay, despite the fact that the only public consultations this month are in Saanich. Two of these properties are on UVic land, at opposite corners of the campus.

Likely one potential site of sewage treatment
Old orchard on UVic property

The site in Oak Bay is the old orchard on Cedar Hill X Rd near Crestview Rd as can be seen on the right. This is a part of UVic and is a very common dog walking site. I have no idea how much of the site they are planning to use or if the orchard will remain, but I expect at least some of that information will be at the upcoming public consultations. I wonder what Citizen Canine will say about the possibility of using this location.

Fields near McCoy Rd.
Fields near McCoy Rd. on UVic property

The second site on UVic lands is near McCoy Road in the fields there. Again, I have no idea how much space they are going to take, but I sincerely hope that they don’t remove the trail that connects to the end of McCoy Road. That is a great biking and walking connection to avoid having to go all the way down to the corner of McKenzie Ave. and Gordon Head Rd.

Haro Woods near UVic
Haro Woods near UVic

The last site is the previously mentioned lands in Haro Woods that the CRD purchased last year. I don’t know exactly where in Haro Woods, as outlined in yellow in the map on the right, but I know that UVic owns a portion as well. There isn’t much more to say about this, except that it is one of the few pieces of relatively intact forest left in the area. Also, there is a large field on Queen Alexandria lands just across the road. In all the years I have been going up that direction, as I used to go to school at Frank Hobbs elementary, that field has been sitting largely empty. Why not use it?

Haro Woods, because it has been previously announced, has already attracted a lot of attention. There is a Save Haro Woods website, and the Cadboro Bay Residents Association has come out strongly against this site as well, asking for it be turned into a park.

There are two open houses coming up, on the 16th at Gordon Head United Church and the 17th at Cadboro Bay United Church. Both of those forums run 3pm to 8pm. There is also neighbourhood workshop that requires pre-registration on the 22nd of June between 6:30pm and 9pm at the Queenswood Centre. This information and more can be seen on the wasterwatermadeclear’s public forums page.  There is also a report from the CRD’s contractor about the feedback from the previous public forums and the principles used in deciding a location.

Personally, I like none of these sites, but I think the orchard site is probably least worst, provided the orchard itself survives and public access for walking dogs is preserved. However, if they do choose the Haro Woods site, they are really setting themselves up to fail. I think we will see UVic students and other environmental activists chaining themselves to equipment and tree sitting, potentially delaying the project months. I almost wonder if this is why the other two spots have just appeared, to avoid that very scenario.

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.

Sewage experts to Colwood: “Screw you”

The experts have decided: One giant sewage plant in Colwood is a great idea. Except of course, if you live in Colwood. Too bad one giant plant is a terrible idea for local land values, the environment and just about every other reason short of get-it-done-now-itis.

One giant plant is being sold as a way to save money, as the cost estimates* show that lots of little plants have almost double the cost of one big plant. Except of course, one big plant makes certains types of resource recovery such as neighbourhood hot water heating basically impossible. One big plant is also very attractive for a P3, something I know a lot of people are not very keen on, myself included. I wonder how many of those “experts” the CRD have found have worked for the big “environmental” (I use the term loosely) firms that would likely bid on any such project?

All in all, just another report. Sewage treatment studies in the CRD are the new transit studies. Lots of hot air and wasted paper without much done. Too bad small plants have already been proven to work and coexist with residential neighbourhoods right here in Oak Bay…

* A word about capital costs: don’t trust any capital cost estimate done before 2009. The price of materials and the cost of wages have fallen so sharply in the past 6 months that any and all estimates, especially those made around the middle of 2008 are totally suspect. For instance the bid for a piece of the University Link Light Rail in Seattle was 34% under estimates, a bid made in December 2008.