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 project manager, 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 report revising the Zoning bylaw. The wide consultation approach for the FAR report, now incorporated into the new Oak Bay Zoning By-law, removed many of the unintended incentives to demolish over preserve.
I was elected to Oak Bay Council in 2014, re-elected in 2018, 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 are still be rewritten to align with the Official Community Plan as the pandemic slowed everything down. I will bring my heart, deep 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.