I ran for election to Oak Bay Council because, at heart, I care about Oak Bay - I love living here and raising my family here.
(Short on time - Get my Brochure with a summary of my Platform)
These are some of my core positions and policies. Please share with me your views. I am always open to new ideas and innovations.
- Oak Bay is the best place to live in greater Victoria. Why? Because of the quality of our single-family dwelling neighbourhoods - they are safe, quiet and unique. Most of our roads are not congested with traffic and lined with parked cars. These are some of the reasons why people want to live, and to continue to live, in Oak Bay.
- I will work hard to ensure our zoning and building bylaws reflect planned development. It is apparent the present ad hoc, spot-zoning approach we currently have has too many "unintended consequences". I will continue to discourage the reconstruction or replacement of existing homes with larger, out of scale structures that not only interfere with the neighbouring properties but also significantly reduce our urban forest.
- I am also concerned with housing affordability. I support the BC Government’s systematic and comprehensive "30 Point Plan for Housing Affordability in British Columbia". I highly recommend all become familiar with it. Regarding the included vacancy tax, I have lobbied government directly that it not be applied to any Canadian citizen - in a similar way to other countries' application of this necessary measure. I will continue to recommend some of the innovative affordable housing ideas I have suggested to Council that respect the character of our community.
- Short-term rentals (STR) are a new phenomenon that all local governments are struggling with. These are displacing long-term rentals and disturbing neighbours. I will press for strong regulation and enforcement. My research has identified several small BC communities that have had good success and are well supported by the courts when enforcement was necessary.
- Our single-family neighbourhoods must be protected and preserved, but it is obvious that this is not the intent of the majority of our previous two councils. The majority of recent councils have made it clear they want to significantly increase the density of our single-family neighbourhoods by wholesale legalization of: secondary suites, lane-way and garden suites, duplexes, etc. This will have serious impacts on our live-ability that need proper analysis and input from the affected neighbourhoods.
- Uncontrolled growth, related to taxes, will put too much pressure on our already under-funded infrastructure, and create more noise, more traffic, and parking problems. Our growth must be planned and gradual so our taxes and services and resources and excellent staff can absorb and handle the impacts. Our high taxes should have been allocated to improvement initiatives and not to supporting development priorities - for this reason I voted against the 2018 budget.
- There is no doubt change is inevitable; but careful planning and excellent public consultation will ensure it will be positive change.
- I will work hard to protect the rights of existing residents and the general public interest. I am concerned the Official Community plan is too vague and has too many loopholes. It is already time for the Provincial recommended five-year review.
- I believe Joni Mitchell got it right with her line "That you don't know what you've got / Till it's gone". If elected I will fight to protect what we’ve got and help to make sure it stays. When change is needed, I prefer a slow and steady approach.
P.S. I support Proportional Representation and will be voting for change - from our current "first past the post" voting system. Please learn what this is about as the mail-in referendum is coming very soon! Here are a few links to get you started:
I encourage you to contact me with your ideas. Let's work on this together.
Eric Wood Zhelka
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Thank you for considering donating to my Re-Election run as Councillor for the District of Oak Bay.
Eric Wood Zhelka, P.Eng
At heart, because I care about Oak Bay - I love living here and raising my family here. I prefer a slow and steady approach to change.
(Short on time - Get my Brochure with a summary of my Platform)
Oak Bay still has a lot of big ticket items coming due: bylaws and policies have not yet been aligned with the OCP, sewage and water allocations, Uplands sewer and storm water separation project, roads that need attention. I believe Oak Bay needs to stick to the basics and the reality of what a small municipality can and cannot do.
Until we put our municipal house in order, there should be no new programs that add to our tax load in the near future, unless funding can be found elsewhere.
Natural environment stewardship
A sound urban forest strategy implementation will slow down the rate at which we are losing our urban forest.
Oak Bay needs a tree protection bylaw that actually protects trees from new construction. The current bylaw is a classic unintended incentive for a developer to demolish instead of renovate.
We need to increase & widen our support and collaboration with the Urban Wildlife Stewardship Society’s non-lethal and humane program to effectively & efficiently reduce the number of BC’s deer in Oak Bay.
Shoreline protection: the Official Community Plan (OCP) bylaw has made a good start. This should be improved by reducing Council's ability to vary the rules.
Land use stewardship
Oak Bay’s neighbourhoods must be preserved and protected as best as we can.
In recent years, changes to Oak Bay’s building bylaws have permitted over-sized reconstructions to dramatically interfere with neighbouring homes. Council acknowledges there have been a number of "unintended consequences". A 92% approval rate of any zoning variance requested reflects a zoning bylaw in dire need of updating.
The new OCP says we have to plan for an expected population increase of 0.5% net per year (90 people). However, the consistent historical rate of population increase in Oak Bay is 0.3% net per year (50 people) as per Census and the Capital Regional District. It is hard to plan if we cannot trust our numbers.
It is important for us to accommodate an expected (small) population increase within Oak Bay, while at the same time recognizing we are fully built-out.
The new OCP provides little guidance on the broad policy of "develop diverse and inclusive housing options". Instead of applying this to the entire municipality, this should be focused where population increases are the most appropriate. Strong regulations and enforcement will be necessary to minimize the impact on all stakeholders and the environment.
- New policies must be crafted to deal with Short Term Rentals. Tofino and Richmond have good templates for us to consider. You can see my research here and here.
- As per our OCP, Vacant Houses are becoming more of a problem - as Oak Bay was not designed to be a place to park investments and not live in the community. I fully support the Province's comprehensive & systematic attempt to address this problem and related issues in their 30 Point Plan for Housing Affordability.
Because of the new OCP, ALL of our bylaws & policies must be rewritten. I will bring my expertise and professional experience to bear and work hard to craft those bylaws & policies to reflect a balanced, intelligent, cautious approach to changes, always in consultation with Oak Bay residents. I'd much prefer to see Oak Bay not make the same mistakes as other towns and cities (no doubt with the best of intentions).
What are your views on how we can better enhance and protect Oak Bay?
Eric Wood Zhelka, MMSc, P.Eng, CPHIMS-CA, PMP
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I am a professional engineer who lives in Oak Bay with his family. I work full time in the BC Public Service for Emergency Management BC.
I grew up on Toronto Island, in a community constantly under threat of redevelopment. I learned valuable lessons about heritage protection in those years and as a volunteer, worked on the front lines to protect my community.
I earned my engineering degree at the University of Toronto and a Masters in Management Sciences from the University of Waterloo. I worked with a number of companies including: Nortel, Bell Canada, Telus, British Telecom, Royal Bank, and various federal and provincial departments and ministries as a professional engineer and management consultant.
My wife and I purchased our first home in south Oak Bay while expecting our first child. Later, while at home with our second child, I was able to complete two major renovations that included digging below the existing basement. It was then I recalled my renovators complaining about “building rules in Oak Bay being too strict”. I didn't mind. I saw these rules as necessary protections for the overall benefit of the community.
In 2008, my architect told me if I had held off on my renovation a bit longer, I could have added another floor to my house, and put in a double car "man cave" in the backyard. That was my first inkling that something had changed in Oak Bay.
April, 2012, I was walking with my daughter up Monterey. She looked at a building under construction and asked, "Why are they building a hospital?" The building did look ‘commercial’ and very out of place. To my eye, it might have been a service building of some sort. The next day, I got a knock on the door and a flyer from concerned residents inviting me to the next Oak Bay council meeting. Residents wanted to know why such a large building was being built in our neighborhood. That council meeting became the first of many I have since attended to express my concerns.
To organize a constructive response to address the many new "large houses on small lots", I co-founded a community association, Oak Bay Watch. This resulted in an invitation to assist with the Floor Area Ratio (FAR) committee revising the Zoning bylaw. The wide consultation approach for the FAR report, now incorporated into the new Oak Bay Zoning By-law, remove most of the unintended incentives to demolish over preserve.
I was elected to Oak Bay Council in 2014 and worked hard to improve the way our municipality was being governed. Particularly with development transparency, heritage and environmental preservation, finance, taxes and infrastructure/asset management. All of our bylaws & policies must still be rewritten to align with the Official Community Plan, as this was not even started in the last mandate. I will bring my expertise and professional experience to bear and work hard to craft those bylaws & policies to reflect a balanced, intelligent, cautious approach to changes, always in consultation with Oak Bay homeowners.
I ask again for your trust in me for your vote.
I’d like to hear your views on how we can better protect and enhance Oak Bay.
Eric Wood Zhelka, P.Eng
P.S. To contact me, email me or click here.