Conflict of Interest & Oak Bay's APC (Advisory Planning Commission)

At the July 3rd, 2018 meeting of the APC, commission member Virginia Holden, who was also employed by the Housing Policy Branch of the BC Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, gave a presentation promoting the development of affordable housing in Oak Bay. Community members in attendance described her presentation as a blatant sales pitch for the proposal by the Oak Bay United Church Development Team (OBUC-DT).

The OBUC-DT’s application to the District of Oak Bay was filed a few weeks after this meeting.

When brought to the attention of Mayor and Council at that time this conflict was considered to be likely non-actionable as Ms. Holden was not receiving any direct financial benefit.

However, on November 4th, 2018 APC member Ms. Holden approached BC Housing expressing an interest to work with them on this development project, in a paid contract position.

(see FOI excerpts below)

On November 8th, Ms. Holden wrote again to BC Housing with a presentation/plan from her private company to work on the Oak Bay United Church project, which is currently being evaluated by the District’s Planning Department and will eventually be given to Council for a decision.

NOTE: The Advisory Planning Commission’s role is to  “… advise Council on matters respecting land use, community planning, or proposed bylaws and certain permits under Part 26 of the Local Government Act. And Official Community Plan amendment applications, rezoning applications and land use contract amendments to ensure proposed developments comply with the policies and objectives of the Official Community Plan.”

When an APC member meets with and lobbies other members of the commission while at the same time attempting to negotiate a pecuniary arrangement with the funder/developer isn’t she splitting her loyalty between two interests: one that potentially offers a financial interest and one that doesn’t.

How could this not create a conflict ?

Conclusion: When this development proposal comes before Council in due course, any advice from the Advisory Planning Commission must be considered tainted. It should be excluded from the decision-making process.

Update:

The CCN wrote to Mayor and Council on April 1, 2019 about these concerns but so far the only response has been a perfunctory acknowledgement.

On April 17th, 2019 The Concerned Citizens Network of Oak Bay approached Mr. Malcolm McNaughton of BC Housing regarding these communications between him and the APC member with a copy of the emails between them (from our FOI request).

His response: “I can confirm that BC Housing does not have a contract with Ms. Holden.”

He does not say that her company doesn’t have a contract, nor does he address her past or future relationship with BC Housing.

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From: BC Housing FOI Request #30-13218

On 4 November 2018 Ms. (Ginnie) Holden wrote to Malcolm McNaughton and Armin Amrolia of BC Housing:

“Thanks for taking the time to meet with me on Friday. It was great to see you both and appreciate your willingness and flexibility for me to work with your team. Overall, I am interested to start something with BC Housing in the new year in some shape or form.  In terms of Oak Bay United, [redacted] I just want to understand what the possibilities are. I’m meeting the [redacted] on Tuesday so I will reconnect with Malcolm after that discussion. I walked through the neighbourhood around the OB church yesterday to get a better sense of the neighbours` concerns more clearly.”

On 8 November 2018, Ms. Holden wrote:

“I met with the Chair of the Oak Bay planning commission as well as the other members on Tuesday [redacted] I would just need to step out of deliberations any time that the project is discussed or reviewed. This is common practice whenever there is a perceived conflict of interest to the project under discussion. Given this decision, I would be interested working with BC Housing.”

Investigation needed - Times Colonist October 12, 2018

Some history to the letter that follows:
Many of us have asked, on numerous occasions, for the names of the people who comprise the Development Team driving the OBUC’s proposed project.

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To date, we have asked the OBUC directly, in emails, letters, and, on October 1, on Facebook on the Oak Bay Municipal Election Discussion page. Here is a screenshot of that conversation:

When that didn’t work, we wrote to the Executive Committee of the BC Conference, United Church of Canada (October 6, 2018) about this and a few other matters.
To date, the senior branch of the church has not provided the names of the Development Team, nor do they seem to have encouraged the OBUC to share this information in the spirit of transparency.

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Then, on October 9th, the Times-Colonist published an article titled Oak Bay mayoral candidates at odds on housing. This piece, written by Richard Watts, repeated many of the OBUC’s favourite refrains.
Following is one response to the inaccuracies in that report. Also in this letter the question is asked again: Who is the Development Team?
The longer that this vital information is withheld, the greater our curiosity - and the more this important question will continue to be asked.

How design images conceal the truth - TC Oct 10, 2016

One aspect of any design application is the artist’s rendering. These are the soothing images that persuade an unsuspecting public that proposed projects will slide into the landscape with barely a ripple. They ignore shadow patterns, traffic snarls, and strain on infrastructure.
As of today’s date, the Oak Bay United Church has not shared the Shadow Study in respect to its proposed development. The District of Oak Bay still refuses to allow public access to the application file.

The OBUC drawings are done from the perspective of someone standing 20' to 30' above the ground (6 m to 9 m above the ground).   See this page

The OBUC drawings are done from the perspective of someone standing 20' to 30' above the ground (6 m to 9 m above the ground). See this page

What about today's neighbours? to OBN Sept 14, 2018

In the Oak Bay United Church’s letter attached to their Rezoning Application dated 13 August 2018,  the developer writes : “We hope to build a solution for the pressures faced by today's community and create a legacy for the generations to come.”
Has the church forgotten that they also need to consider the pressures faced by their present neighbours and wider Oak Bay community before building this massive project which will change their neighbourhood and the face of Oak Bay forever?  Have they given thought to the stress and fear their present neighbours, many of whom have lived here for decades and are in their very late years, are experiencing?
On September 11th the church posted some technical studies on their website. The arborists report writes of the trees that will be removed.

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The mechanical engineers description of how venting fumes and odours from the underground garage, garbage rooms, gas boilers and 96 units will be installed on the building’s roof (to drift over the neighbourhood). The geologists report that describes rock blasting and possible damage to adjacent structures during excavation and construction and the underpinning and shoring of the church and a neighbouring property that will be needed. Another warning is about seepage (already a common problem in older period homes next to the church). The report warns that noise and ground vibrations will be experienced by neighbouring residents and complaints from neighbours should be anticipated.  The church and heritage homes surrounding it were built at a time when rebar was not put into concrete foundations, putting these properties at serious risk.
If Oak Bay is serious about the welfare of  its citizens and protecting its heritage it must not accept the risk that this massive project represents.
B. G. Judson