If Oak Bay United Church rushes through their redevelopment planning process without more meaningful neighbourhood consultation and careful thought, we all need to be concerned. Input has been sincerely given on the effect of such a development on the existing neighbourhood including lack of parking for the proposed massive building and increased traffic problems.
At a time when building costs are the highest they have ever been there is a real possibility of an incompleted project with a redevelopment of a size, scale and density that the area (and perhaps the church) simply cannot support. As a developer, the church insists they need to break even in regards to costs and revenue with the proviso that the development must be of a sufficiently large size and density to cover the church’s costs over the next 100 years (an undefined figure). Church boards come and go and a decision made by one may not have the same support or commitment from the next.
Unfortunately, financial problems have historically plagued this and other churches. St. Paul’s United Church in Kelowna undertook a similar major redevelopment of a church-owned property in 2016. Partially built, the project was in crisis management characterized by a lack of proper financial reporting, controls and governance oversight. The $20 million development was put up for sale. It simply wasn’t a viable project for a number of reasons, the board said.
One wonders whether Oak Bay United Church’s proposed massive redevelopment is a viable project at this time. Those who attended the consultation sessions supported the idea of some form of ‘affordable’ housing appropriate for this piece of church land: a building within the spirit of the guidelines of the official community plan, in scale, size and harmony with the existing neighbourhood.
Unfortunately our voices were not heard.