A modest request

This letter simply asks that the OBUC-Development Team be required to comply with the requests made by the District of Oak Bay in January 2018:

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Opposition not diminished - TC August 8, 2018

When Cheryl Thomas told a Times Colonist reporter that opposition to to the Oak Bay United Church’s proposal had diminished, the church’s neighbours were confounded. How had she formed this opinion? Did she arrive at it because she doesn’t live near the church and failed to see all the protest?
Maybe, like a lot of politicians these days, she thought if she said it often enough, it might come true?

Oak Bay housing project fails to gain neighbourhood support

I found this letter to the Times-Colonist while searching for other online versions of correspondence. With all this very vocal opposition, it is astonishing to think that the District of Oak Bay has accepted the application when the OBUC has failed to secure more public support. In the January 2018 meeting of the Committee of the Whole, Mayor Jensen suggested they should not return with an application without strong support.

Read on:

To complain about anything when we live here in paradise appears to be churlish.
Nevertheless, when taxpayers have subsidized, year after year, tax-free church lands, and now the church wants to “develop” its land, overriding the recommendations of those same residents who have subsidized them for decades, surely the taxpaying residents have a right to be heard.
Apparently, Oak Bay United Church’s “best compromise” is to reduce its original proposal of 160 units on a 1.3-acre lot to a mere 98. I guess it’s a well-worn strategy to start huge and wear people down with subsequent minor “reductions.”
What is it about this church that refuses to listen to the local residents who have subsidized them from the year dot? Residents have stated in spades that they are not opposed to change; they support affordable rental housing that fits with the neighbourhood (in which they pay exorbitant taxes); they support a development of between 25 and 40 units; and they’ve made several sound recommendations around this proposed development.
The church states that its rents would start at less than $1,000 permonth, be self-sustaining and bring in money to operate the church. Does this really mean that a brand-new rental suite in Oak Bay would be less than $1,000 amonth? For whom? Can the Oak Bay police handle a potential increase in neighbourhood crime associated with below-market rent?
The church says its congregation is increasing — are these rental suites already allotted to churchgoers? What if it’s not a “self-sustaining” project? Does the church then decide to sell off these units at market price? (Just look at the condo/real-estate pre-buying boondoggle going on in Vancouver.)
There are already unconfirmed reports of a group of Vancouver Realtors being seen on the church property. The church has been less than forthcoming in the past, so what can we expect in the future?
The church is on record calling local residents “mean-spirited” for merely trying to maintain the ambience of their cherished neighbourhood, which they’ve worked and cared for for decades. God help the local taxpaying residents once the trees come down, the multi-storeys go up, the views are diminished, the birdlife is gone, and 120 more cars are coming and going all day and all night long. Thanks for that, United Church.
And by the way, if the congregation is truly increasing, where are they all going to park? Maybe the church should rethink that parking lot.

E.J. Williams
Times Colonist May 13, 2018

Read the online version here.

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Kudos to residents - Oak Bay News January 20, 2018

I have to admit that at the start of this process I didn't clip every letter I saw. Some that I clipped got a bit crumpled in my file. Where possible, I will look for electronic versions of the letters. If you click the image, it will take you to that version if I have found one.

Time to build community - OBN January 5, 2018

From the Oak Bay News

One must marvel at Oak Bay United Church’s ability to garner positive press for their proposed development. Clearly the church or the consultants hired with the $500,000 loan from BC Housing Management, are supremely skilled in the art of controlling the message. Getting front page coverage of their proposal in the Times Colonist and the Oak Bay News in the week between Christmas and the New Year was brilliant. What better time to build support for their project when people are at their most generous and thinking of others less fortunate. Also a great time to paint your neighbours as wealthy, uncaring, and unwilling to accept change in their neighbourhood.

But has the church been too cute by half?

People are beginning to read that the neighbours have indeed been willing to work with the church and its consultants to create a proposal that they would support. Contrary to statements made the neighbours are not opposed to affordable housing in their neighbourhood.

So why the disconnect between views as to what is happening. Was the engagement and consultation process adequate and well received by the neighbours? Apparently not. Rather than running to the press in their effort to control the message why is the church not expending effort to bring the neighbours on side.

Seems to me it is time for the church, to hire an unbiased facilitator to establish a framework for the church and its neighbours to develop a plan that meets the needs of both parties. Failure to do so rests entirely with the church as the proponent of a large- scale development in an established neighbourhood.

Photo from the Oak Bay News January 5, 2018

Photo from the Oak Bay News January 5, 2018

Otherwise what is currently shaping up is a win/lose scenario and either side could be the loser. Time to get back to building consensus and community.

Wayne Randall

Oak Bay

You can read this letter online here

And now a few words from the locals and others

When I first heard of the Oak Bay United Church's (OBUC) intention to build affordable housing on its land, I thought, “That sounds like a good use of that space.”

That was before I learned of the size and density intended for this property. It was well before I went to the December 14th, 2017 so-called community consultation, only to have my comments ignored. Worse still, one of the convenors attempted to bully the people at my table by claiming photography of the plans was a breach of copyright. The man didn’t know copyright law but neither did I. Looking it up later, I found he was wrong.

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That’s a long-winded way of saying I was slow in my engagement with the issue. I didn't start watching the articles and readers' comments in the local papers until early 2018.

The first Letter to the Editor I saw was this one in the Times Colonist:

Re: “New residential development a lifeline for Oak Bay church,” Dec. 28.

Kudos to Oak Bay United Church and B.C. Housing for collaborating on a proposed affordable housing development of the church land in Oak Bay.

It is long overdue, given the ongoing, disastrous, local and national affordable-housing crisis, that churches and other institutions sitting on and/or owning tracts of land use that resource for affordable housing. By doing so they are able to meet their goals.

Now it is up to us in their surrounding communities to support making their initiatives work.

Judy Curran

South Saanich

This writer is what I would call a FIYBY (pronounced Fibby – Fine In Your Backyard). She lives nowhere near Oak Bay. Any and all problems resulting from a project of this magnitude will not affect her.

I answered with this letter:

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From here forward we will start to post the opinions by people who have enough conviction to own their opinions. There is some interesting reading ahead.