The 12-Storey Program
-Councillor Gaul explains her side of the “storey” on OCP changes
Councillor Ali Gaul recently achieved success with getting changes to the Official Community Plan (OCP) approved by Council (see February 16th story below). EsquimaltReview.com caught up with Councillor Gaul to better understand the rationale and process behind the OCP amendments.
Gaul sponsored the motion to allow for 12-storey heights rather than the current 10, so why 12?
“The number 12 came directly from public input and feedback,” says Gaul. “It is supported by the stacks of written, formal feedback we received. It is also consistent with the majority of phone calls and emails I received from the community. The feedback we got from the Urban Development Institute also suggested that Esquimalt look at encouraging buildings in the moderate height range.”
Gaul describes the community feedback as diverse and passionate. “I have received more calls, emails and feedback on this, than on any other issue we have faced during my term on Council,” says Gaul. “Some feel that 12 is too high. Some feel that we should have put no limit on height so that we can encourage high rises. The majority of feedback I’ve received is along the lines of, ‘I don’t really like 12 personally, but I understand it’ and ‘thank you for listening.’”
In response to complaints about the lengthy and, at times, frustrating process to amend the OCP, Gaul admits that it has been a long and difficult haul for staff, Council and the community.
“I am grateful that people have remained engaged through to its conclusion. The perseverance is a reflection of the deep personal investment people have in our community,” says Gaul. “As for process, there is certainly room for improvement…and it’s important to take the time to reflect on exactly how we can tackle our next big issues smoothly.”
The OCP changes turned out to be quite divisive for Council with Mayor Barb Desjardins and Councillor Don Linge opposing Gaul’s motion and arguing that it will do nothing to help Esquimalt’s community revitalization.
“Decisions at the Council table are often split,” responds Gaul. “One of the strengths of this Council is that once a decision is made, every member acts professionally and works hard to achieve our common strategic goals…even if they voted against the decision. “
“I fully expect that will continue,” adds Gaul. “We all want to encourage positive development in Esquimalt, and I predict that we’ll all work to accomplish that.”
Supporters of the Royal Legion Tower proposal at 622 Admirals Road appeared especially upset with Gaul’s motion being passed by Council.
“I recognize that this has been particularly hard on supporters of the Legion Tower,” says Gaul. “In September of 2008, the Council of the day resolved that we would undertake a review of the OCP and they put the Legion project in abeyance until the review was completed. The OCP review was never intended to make a decision on a specific proposal, as the OCP is a framework for growth and development in our entire community – not at one site.”
“However, having a specific project ‘on hold’ has undeniably had an impact on the public perception of this process. Supporters of the Legion Project hoped that the OCP review would deliver a clear mandate to approve their project. Instead, it delivered a conclusion to the review process, a reaffirmation that our community supports moderate growth and the freedom for the Legion to come forward with their project proposal at any time.”
Gaul finished off with a reminder to the community to stay active, engaged and informed.
“I really want to thank the community for coming forward – their input is vital in decision making,” concludes Gaul.