NHRA Survey

The North Henderson Residents Association (NHRA) asked candidates their views on the OCP Housing types suitable for North Henderson and how they would engage the community in implementation of the necessary bylaws. I have included my responses below.

Question One:

Which of the below housing types do you think would be suitable for the North Henderson area and why?

a) Infill development - by placing additional housing units (garden suites, laneway suites etc.) on residential lots,

(b) legalized basement suites,

(c) duplexes and triplexes,

(d) Subdivision of lots.

Answer: Oak Bay is the best place to live in greater Victoria.  People want to live here because our single family dwelling neighbourhoods are safe, quiet and lightly populated.  Our roads are not overly congested with traffic and parked cars. Our neighbourhoods must be preserved and protected. The changes about which you speak would cause harm to neighbourhoods.  The changes would mean more people, more traffic and parking congestion on our streets, less road safety, less yard space, less community cohesiveness, possibly more crime, and more.  Those notoriously harmful effects have already occurred in other urban jurisdictions.

The first broad objective  of the OCP was to “Consider increases in density while respecting the values that make Oak Bay an attractive and environmentally rich community”  .  The second broad policy of the OCP was to “Consider infill development as a tool for allowing more density to fit within neighbourhoods while respecting and conserving neighbourhood character.  Infill development was defined in the plan as development that is constructed in an already developed area. It can come in different forms, scale and character. It includes secondary suites, additional housing units on a residential lot, and dividing detached homes into multiple units. I have underlined the word ‘Consider” as it is used in the plan for emphasis

Policies and Plans do not govern Council’s future actions, they simply guide them.  In addition because the OCP specifically used the word “consider” it is clear that the plan did not intend to mandate increases in density nor infill development in our neighbourhoods.  They are simply strategies that council may consider when doing land use planning

I am worried the visionaries who crafted the new OCP policies will not have the capabilities to carefully craft it into appropriate by-laws.  If elected I will work hard to prevent the legalization of secondary suites, garden suites and laneway houses in our single family dwelling neighbourhoods, and any facilitation of the unplanned subdivision of lots.   As time passes, change is inevitable; but notoriously bad changes must be prevented.  Any change should be focused where population increases are the most appropriate.  Strong regulations and enforcement will be necessary to minimize impacts for all stakeholders.

If sound evidence demonstrates a pressing need for change, then I will work hard to ensure that the rights of existing residents are fully protected and that any land use changes do not harm the fundamental nature and quality of our neighbourhoods.

Question Two:

The Official Community Plan Community Survey asked for opinions about housing types for Oak Bay "assuming  key issues such as tree protection, parking, traffic, noise and neighbourhood character will be addressed.”

What method or methods of community engagement would you support to determine if these key issues (as quoted above)can be successfully addressed for the North Henderson area?

In your reply we are most interested in the concrete actions, venues and terms of reference that you would support and not support to ensure meaningful involvement of the community in Council’s decision making process.

Answer: There were two fundamental flaws with the Community Plan Survey

Firstly, the survey was sent by the Mayor to all households in the District. Those households included not only single family residences, but also rentals and residences in multifamily dwellings. Consequently the survey measured what all residents of Oak Bay thought as a single group, regardless of the kind of residence that was occupied.

The residents that would be most affected by major land use changes in single family dwelling neighbourhoods are the owners of those dwellings. In order to determine what owners of homes in single family dwelling neighbourhoods thought about possible infilling their neighbourhoods, the survey should have measured what the owners of those dwellings thought as a separate group. Unfortunately it did not.

Secondly, the survey asked respondents to make the assumption to which you referred. In my view the assumption that Council requested respondents to make with respect to some of the problems that are caused by infilling were, in fact, promises that those problems would be prevented.

In reality those assumptions will be difficult to prevent, if not incapable of being prevented at all. It would have been more appropriate for the survey to have requested opinions without requesting them to be subject to an assumption that may be incapable of being met. In that way, we would have had a clear understanding of what respondents really thought in context of Oak Bay as we know it today. Unfortunately it did not.

If community engagement is used to determine whether those problems can be prevented, meaningful and in-depth consultation with home owners in each single family dwelling neighbourhood area under consideration must be carried out. As an invited member of the recent Floor Area Ratio review committee, chaired by Kevin Murdoch, I was very pleased to see the outreach to all stakeholders to ensure all points of view were included near the beginning of the process and then considered. The multiple public consultation sessions, offered at differing times to ensure all could attend and provide early input on some early drafts helped greatly to get a sense of the direction the homeowners and others in Oak Bay wanted the committee to go. An excellent process I’d like to see emulated. For larger projects, I have participated in design charrettes, something like a focus group, which have assist planning for special cases and ensure stakeholder participation. I’d like to see these used here more extensively.

Responses from all of the candidates are available here.   

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