The Never Ending Story on Storeys
-Council Delays OCP Changes…Yet Again.
Large numbers of Esquimalt residents were jam-packed into this week’s Committee of the Whole council meeting to hear the final fate of Council’s decision on amending Esquimalt’s Official Community Plan (OCP). Specifically, Council was expected to vote on amended building storey heights and a new threshold of density for Esquimalt. After several months of consultation with the general public and extensive discussion by Council, the moment of decision had come….and gone.
Yet again, a decision was delayed. In a split, contentious vote of 4 to 3, Council voted to postpone the issue one further week until next Monday.
Visibly frustrated, Council members appeared embarrassed by the delay that came as a result of not receiving essential information from staff prior to the meeting. It all started on January 18 when Councillor Ali Gaul moved a motion based on public input to amend the OCP to allow for 12 storeys. At that time, Council opted to postpone Gaul’s motion until February 8 in order to ascertain an appropriate new floor area ratio (FAR) number. Along with height, FARs determine the amount of density a project creates for the community through the size of the building in relation to the size of the land including such factors as the number and size of residential units.
The public gallery included many local Royal Canadian Legion members who support plans to construct a new 17-storey tower at the Legion’s 622 Admirals Road location. The fate of the project is largely tied to changes in the OCP, which currently limits construction to ten storeys. The OCP does allow for higher buildings if the developer is willing to contribute towards new amenities for the community.
When Council voted to delay their decision by one further week, the large crowd erupted in frustration and anger. Many Legion supporters stormed out of the meeting while expressing their disgust with the delay. The furry stems from both the community and potential developers not being provided with certainty on what is happening with our OCP.
The whole incident leaves a lingering question or two. When given three weeks to prepare, why did staff not provide Council and the general public with the necessary information (prior to last night’s meeting) to make a final informed decision on heights and density? And why did Council not ensure that staff prepare and provide that essential information prior to the meeting? Could it be that there is a break-down in communications going on at Municipal Hall on what is perhaps the most important issue for our community?
If nothing else, Council needs to make certain that this type of disorder never occurs again. If Esquimalt wants to be taken seriously, it needs to prevent such embarrassments from taking place.