Thoughts on the Oak Bay Lodge decision

Well Monday night’s decision was not what I was expecting. I knew going in that we have two councillors on either side, with Hazel Braithwaite as the swing vote. What I was not expecting was Hazel to switch from yes to no, causing the project to be defeated. So where did it all go wrong? VIHA and Baptist Housing boxed themselves into a corner.

They arrived at the table with set of requirements that left no room to move. To contrast, I find it instructive to look at Oak Bay High School vs the Lodge. Both are very large projects, both driven by replacement of long-standing community amentities, both with some very specific needs that meant that there was little “wiggle room”. But this is where the path diverges. The High School team arrived with a blank page, a list of things they needed, and a willingness to talk about it. The reality with the high school is that the end result, with the school along Cranmore St, was probably going to be only result that worked, once the need for the regulation-sized soccer and rugby fields, transforming the old gym into the new theatre, and protecting Bowker Creek were all taken into consideration. But critically different, that result came about because the neighbours and the wider community got to hear why the high school plan ended up like it did.

Contrast that with the Lodge, where the developer arrived with a plan for a building on a site and then told the community it had a very short time to decide. So they were already forcing the neighbours to accept something they had no insight or decision-making on, but also they are not being given the time to see why the Lodge ended up as it did. Further, Baptist Housing apparently spent years up in Saanich talking, but only weeks in Oak Bay. The very easy question then came up: Why didn’t we get the same amount of time? Nobody seemed to be willing to answer that clearly. I think that Baptist Housing should have come out and apologized to the neighbours for that even if it wasn’t their fault (I actually think the delay can come down to VIHA, whom I don’t trust).

In the end, the combination of mostly-formed project, with a big building, an apparent disregard for consultation in one community but not another, and a very short time frame doomed this project. I suspect this project is now dead. Baptist Housing’s media statement says this (emphasis mine):

Baptist Housing is extremely disappointed with Oak Bay Council’s decision to vote against our variance application regarding the proposed redevelopment of Oak Bay Lodge. Baptist Housing will be meeting with our partners, Vancouver Island Health Authority and Capital Regional Hospital District, to determine what our options and next steps are. Baptist Housing remains committed to providing resident-centred complex care and licensed dementia housing for the seniors of Greater Victoria.

Not Oak Bay. Hmm. Further, their project website is now offline, which is usually a pretty telling statement.

Well, that was a fun ride while it lasted. Hopefully other developers will take the right lessons away from this “community engagement is critical”, not the wrong ones, “Oak Bay doesn’t want development”.

By split vote, council advances Oak Bay Lodge to public hearing

After a long debate in which neighbours continued to express their disappointment with lack of consultation with the process and the size of the building, council ultimately voted 3-2 to send it out to public notice. Councillors Ney and Jensen voted against moving it forward, claiming that hasn’t been enough public consultation.

The front row was even more filled than usual with “people in suits”, as Hampshire Rd. resident Michael Hayes pointed out. Joining the usual Baptist Housing (and Cotter Architecture) staff, were VIHA CEO Howard Waldner, and CRHD‘s chair (and View Royal Mayor) Graham Hill.

The final decision will thus come November 14th, just 5 days before the election. Altough CRHD lack a webpage about the project (Mount View Heights, which includes the other side of this project, does have a page too), Baptist Housing haveĀ  a fairly comprehensive one.

Council delays Oak Bay Lodge decision

At last night’s marathon council session, council ultimately decided to delay the decision until early November (either the 7th or 14th). Baptist Housing apparently faces a deadline of November 10th for their funding, which is intertwined in the Mount View property in Saanich, so this delay still allows them to complete the deal.

The plan has changed somewhat, with the building dropping by one metre and pulling back towards Cadboro Bay Rd, at the cost of four mature Garry Oak trees, but that wasn’t enough to satisfy neighbours, who were fairly unanimous in saying they felt that the project was rushed and out of scale with the neighbourhood.

Another bone of contention was the revelation that although the plans were filed initially in late May, it wasn’t until August that they were brought forward. The delay was at the request of Baptist Housing, although whether they had to for legal reasons or not is unclear.

Baptist Housing did promise to work with the neighbours on the design, although it seems fairly clear that the total number of beds, 320, isn’t going to change, as that is part of the 550+ that Baptist Housing has said it will provide to VIHA between Oak Bay Lodge and Mount View. Councillor Ney did wonder why Oak Bay got the larger number, but Baptist Housing said that Mount View is already a 7-story building.

After Baptist Housing meets with the neighbours, it will head back to Council on October 24th, likely to be sent for the legally-required public notification period of two weeks, which brings the decision back either on November 14th or the 7th, depending on if council decides to hold a special council meeting that night.

As a final aside, likely this will be Mayor Causton’s final major decision, as he mentioned that when he first arrived as mayor, his first was sewage. He laughed as he said there was “no link”.

Quick followup on Oak Bay Lodge

(Sorry about the delay in this update, I have been on vacation from the 18th to the 26th)

Just a few clarifying points on my post on Oak Bay Lodge just over a week ago:

  • The building is to be 6 stories, not 5
  • The Mount Tolmie lands ultimate disposition is unclear at this time. Saanich Council has made it very clear that they will not rezone the land, so that likely ends any chance of it being sold off.
  • Where is the cost/benefit analysis of replacing vs repairing Oak Bay Lodge that Oak Bay Council asked for, and was promised by VIHA CEO Waldner, in Janurary 2010?

Ultimately, I suspect that like the school, which was just delayed, I suspect this project won’t start construction this fall.

Baptist Housing proposes 5-story Oak Bay Lodge replacement

Baptist Housing, owner of many senior’s facilities in British Columbia — including Shannon Oaks in Oak Bay — came to Oak Bay Council with a five story Oak Bay Lodge replacement, tentatively named Garry Oaks. The 320-bed facility would be a mixture of dementia care and long-term residential living, removing any independent living that currently exists at Oak Bay Lodge. Given that Shannon Oaks, Baptist Housing’s independent living facility just up the street, isn’t full yet, this isn’t shocking, but it is disappointing.

However, it appears that the threat of the land being sold has passed, as the land is being transferred from VIHA to the Capital Regional Health District, owners of the existing land at RJH and VGH. It isn’t clear yet what will happen with the Mount Tolmie land and buildings, as this is a linked development, designed to replace both Oak Bay Lodge, Mount Tolmie and the Bapist Housing-owned Mount Edwards Court.

Happily for the any future residents, the new facility will keep full on-site food preparation and laundry. Patrick Cotter, the architect, had this to say on the topic of food:

The new building will have a full central kitchen on-site that will provide lunch and dinner service, this will be augmented with a complete kitchen in each of the 16 resident houses that will provide food preparation for individual breakfast service throughout the morning; will provide individual service of lunch and dinner within the resident houses; and snacks and drinks throughout the remainder of the day.

The deal gets more complicated, however, when you consider yet another moving piece: Baptist Housing’s Mount View Heights, a contentious development on the old Mount View School Grounds on Carey Road. Cotter Architects is also designing the 260-bed facility there, which VIHA is somehow combining with the new Oak Bay Lodge/Garry Oaks development to trumpet their “increase in beds”

So much remains murky, including whether or not this building, in this size will get past Oak Bay Council. Cotter claimed that reducing it in size would reduce its effectiveness (ie: profit), as it is designed around 20-unit “neighbourhoods”. Stay tuned for more.


Oak Bay Lodge rezoning up for discussion tomorrow night

Details are scant, but it appears that Oak Bay Lodge (identified as 2251
Cadboro Bay Rd in the [download id=”8″ format=”1″]) is up for discussion tomorrow night.

Note: This is the first of three mandatory meetings for any rezoning, so there is no need to panic yet. Any rezoning first goes to Committee of the Whole, then Council for notice to be sent to neighbours, then comes back two weeks later for voting.

Committee of the Whole meets at 7:30pm on August 8th, 2011, in the Council Chambers of Oak Bay Municipal Hall.

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.