On April 19 at a council estimates meeting, the mayor and three councillors allocated funds to increase density in Oak Bay’s neighbourhoods. Their objective is to legalize basement suites so that a house in Oak Bay can be multi-dwelling. Oak Bay is already two-fifths multi residential and recent estimates peg investment (speculative) properties at 25 per cent. Council now wants to expand this by changing the zoning bylaw and our community and densify the rest of Oak Bay.
To accomplish their basement suite objective, council is under-funding our roads, sewers and storm drains in addition to not funding the recommendations of the Urban Forest Strategy implementation of which will protect our trees and green space and this valuable infrastructure ecosystem asset.
Council has repeatedly been informed by resident survey’s, the official community plan review findings, senior staff, the asset management consultants etc., that fixing our infrastructure is the main concern. The planned over-development will intensify this problem. It would be much more logical to develop an asset management plan and complete the necessary upgrading, and then perhaps our current infrastructure system could handle all of this new development. At the estimates meeting residents, all professionals in their field, made the following points with reference to decisions by the Mayor and the three councillor’s who almost always vote with him.
Residents stated that council must make decisions for the long-term, not only in the context of an annual budget. Victoria for example, bases their decisions on a 20-year plan. We have had asset management information since 2009, (indicting we are still without a plan). It was pointed out that the failure of an 80-year old sewer line at the police and fire departments is an indicator of what residents fear for all of Oak Bay’s 100 year-old sewer system.
That council must make decisions beyond the current 2017 budget as the future outlook could indicate sky rocketing property taxes with an additional three per cent for CRD sewerage.
Where Oak Bay is heading with regard to suites, is controversial to say the least. The survey that was done could be interpreted quite differently than council is viewing it.
Why is it that other municipalities hold several budget meetings involving their community, outside of council meetings, many months ahead of April council estimates meetings? They all work together, making tough decisions.
A fiscal wall is coming. Pay attention.