Oak Bay council voted 3-2 early this morning to turn down variances needed for a controversial redevelopment of the Oak Bay Lodge site.

There is simply not enough information available from the Vancouver Island Health Authority and the Baptist Housing Society to decide on such an important project, councillors said. And they are also concerned it may not be the right site for a facility of its size.

Mayor-elect Nils Jensen and councillor Tara Ney voted against it, as did Hazel Braithwaite, the defeated mayoral candidate.

Councillor John Herbert voted in favour, as did retiring mayor Christopher Causton.

A full report on their reasons will be posted later today.

About 250 people attended a special meeting at the Monterey Centre Monday night. They had 4.5 hours of questions for VIHA, Baptist Housing and Oak Bay council. At the end, many told council they couldn’t imagine how council, in all good conscience, could make a decision given the lack of detailed information and lack of community consultation.

The proposed development would see the current building at 2251 Cadboro Bay Rd. replaced with an $80-million, six-storey, 320-bed facility.

The joint project between the Baptist Housing Society and the Vancouver Island Health Authority would provide a home for Greater Victoria seniors with dementia who require complex care.

The project needs variances from the municipality to allow a two-storey increase in height to built to six storeys, and a reduction of required parking from 320 to 107 spots.

The meeting Monday night was held because so many people wanted to speak at a meeting scheduled last week.

A repeated concern was that VIHA was bullying the current council and threatening to put the project in another municipality if approval isn’t given this week.

In a letter to council, the authority said they need council to approve the necessary variances on the project so they can meet their December funding deadline.

Heather Vincent, who lives on Cranmore Road, said a new building for seniors is needed and wanted in the community, something many at the meeting reiterated.

“Our concern is due process or lack of it. … Please listen to us tonight and allow for more due process and community input.”

Many speakers emphasized they are not against such a facility, but they want details from VIHA.

“I think that VIHA’s threat to take its ball and bat and go home is just a bullying tactic,” said Mike Hayes. “We have been told by Baptist Housing and VIHA in the past that they do not have other zoned land. The zoning on the lodge site is vitally important to this whole debate. That is council’s strongest card and it should be played.”

The proposal has also brought up a split on council.

Mayor-elect Nils Jensen and councillor Tara Ney tried at the start of the meeting to have discussion by council and a decision on the project adjourned so the new council could deal with it. The new council, which will have three new councillors, is to be sworn in Dec. 5.

Jensen said the project is too big and important to the community for it to be rushed through to decision. Council were only shown a model of the proposed project a week ago, he said, and the community has not had enough time to have their many questions answered.

Mayor Christopher Causton, defeated mayoral candidate Hazel Braithwaite and John Herbert voted against that though, so the meeting carried on.


© Copyright (c) The Victoria Times Colonist