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.

Belated post on the ducky race

Been a little bit busy recently with real life, so I have been sitting on these pictures of the Bowker Creek Rubber Ducky Race. This is the 11th annual hosted by the Oak Bay High Environment Club, but actually the 12th race ever hosted. The weather cooperated for the event, with a nice light breeze and beautiful sunshine. Given the low volume of water in the creek and the breeze, this meant that the race was actually up the creek, not down it. Of course, what you really came here to see are some pictures:

The youngest volunteer and some of her fellow volunteers
The youngest volunteer and some of her fellows

Urban Raincatcher Gazette with Freya, a volunteer
Urban Raincatcher Gazette display with Freya, a volunteer

NDP MP Denise Savoie chats with with a member of the public
NDP MP Denise Savoie chats with with a member of the public

David Lock calls everybody to announce the start of the race
David Lock calls everybody to announce the start of the race

Sonora and fellow student just before the start
Sonora Godfrey and fellow student just before the start

Students watch the ducks cross the line
Students watch the ducks cross the line
Oak Bay Mayor speaking with with a member of the public
Mayor Causton speaking with with a member of the public

David Lock marshalls his volunteers
David Lock marshalls his volunteers/students

Oak Bay Councillor Pam Copley speaking with a member of the public
Oak Bay Councillor Pam Copley

Students wait with boxes of ducks for the start of the race
Students wait with boxes of ducks for the start of the race

The ducks are in the water
The ducks are in the water!

David Lock announces the results
David Lock announces the results

Kudos to Sonera and David for organizing the event and all the people that came out and bought rubber ducks. It was a great event and hopefully this will keep Bowker Creek and all the work that needs to be done in the public eye and in their mind.

Notes from last night’s forum on urban watersheds and forests

Tree on the bank of Bowker Creek
Tree on the bank of Bowker Creek

Last night the Friends of Bowker Creek Society and the Oak Bay Green Committee co-hosted a well-attended forum on urban watersheds and urban forests. The forum was an outgrowth of an internal effort by the Green Committee to get arborist Jeremy Gye to speak to them but ended up growing into the public forum with both Jeremy and Ian Graeme of the Friends of Bowker Creek speaking.

Jeremy’s talk was an excellent introduction to the values and challenges of trees in the urban context. He recently finished doing work for the City of Victoria looking at their urban forest and the massive challenge they face in the near future due to their mostly uniform age trees. This is also a problem that Oak Bay faces and given most of these trees are reaching the end of their life, both municipalities are going to need to spend a lot of time and money not only replacing those trees but also working with the public to understand the process and get them involved with it.

Ian’s talk on Bowker Creek was shorter and covered the watershed aspects of the evening. Aside from a basic introduction to what a watershed is, he gave us a tour down Bowker Creek by canoe. Given all the culverts, this involved a great deal of portaging down streets like Shelbourne. I would love to see a canoe race down Bowker Creek  as a way to fundraise for the Society and raise awareness of Bowker Creek in general. One of the more serious ideas presented was the idea of a Bowker Creek Greenway (PDF). Ian made the point that the new Baptist Housing lacks easy access to Bowker Creek Park, as the section right by the Rec. Centre is bounded on either side by parking lots, a sad waste of an opportunity if I have ever seen one.

There were also excellent tasty treats and coffee, a must for any public event. Half the time I think that people show up just to get some free food. Speaking of people, I was pleased to see both Councillors Tara Ney and John Herbert come out. I have said this in the past and I will say it again: Tara’s election has been a major boon for Oak Bay and she has made an excellent councillor even in the few short months since she has been elected. I am continuely disappointed at how few community events our elected representatives come out to.

After the two talks and a bit of eating, there was a short discussion period, which raised several excellent points about education, especially to the young. One suggestion made was to have a package of information to new home-owners to tell them about what sorts of native trees and habitat are already on their propety, in the hopes that they preserve it. One commentor also lamented the lack of native flowers at Buchart Gardens, noting that there were only native trees.

With the challenges of getting preserving and increasing the size of the urban forest, Jeremy noted that an excellent source of Garry Oak seedlings are uncut lawns. Lots of yards with mature Oak trees, if left uncut would yield dozens of seedlings. Maybe Oak Bay Tourism could sell these native trees instead of palm trees. I am not holding my breath.

In the next month or so there will be a bunch of events surrounding Bowker Creek. On the 30th of this month there is a cleanup and rubber ducky race. The cleanup starts at 10am behind Oak Bay High and the race at noon near the fire hall. On June 13th there will be a Bowker Creek Celebration Walk starting at 1pm in the upper parking lot of the Oak Bay Recreation Centre.

Overall, it was an excellent event. I am glad that the Oak Bay Green Committee and the Friends of Bowker Creek Society were able to put it on and like several people mentioned, there is sense that maybe change is in the air. Maybe in the next few years, we will get critical mass on getting a greenway built along Bowker Creek, connecting Oak Bay into the Lochside Trail and beyond.

As a final note, this coming Monday, the 25th, Council will be debating their continued support of the multi-municipality Bowker Creek Initiative. It is vital that the funding for this continue, so come out at 7:30pm at the Municipal Hall and tell council to support Bowker Creek and fund the BCI.

Busy station at Oak Bay municipal hall this morning

Long shot of tents on the lawn
Tents on the lawn of the municipal hall

This morning’s celebration station on the front lawn was a busy time for me and my fellow Safer Cycling OB volunteers, Jane and Leona. We managed to get nearly everybody that came by to tell us where they bicycled by highlighting those roads on a map. Adding the 37 collected today, we have almost 60 responses already. Entering in all these data and then making sense of it is going to be a big job.

Tara Ney talk with Jane van Hoorn
Tara Ney talking with Jane van Hoorn

I was surprised and disappointed that the only member of council that came by today was Tara Ney, who dropped in and chatted with us for a good half an hour. She reiterated her support for what we are doing, which is always heartening, given the scale of the project.  Roy Thomassen, the Director of Planning, also made a quick appearance. He clarified that there is a slight change of plans with the covered bike shelter and it is being moved to right against the building.

Transit operator demoing how to load bike
Transit operator demoing how to load bike

Due to being busy, I didn’t get many pictures today, but there are lots more all the stations on biketowork’s photostream. This Friday is also Bike to Work Day and this is bringing lots of posts about how to making biking more
on, an aggregator of blogs about livable streets.

Tomorrow morning Leona and I are off to the Royal Jubilee Hospital, which I learned today will be by the old entrance to the hospital on the south side (map).