Oak Bay council members agree an aging house in its land portfolio needs urgent repair, but after that ideas diverge.
Some supported the staff recommendation that the municipally owned building is an opportunity to fill a need for district office space in a tight market.
During its Nov. 27 meeting, council perused options for the home at 1538 Monterey Ave. bought by the district in 2016 for $1.7 million. Built in 1909, the house is a 307.6 square-metre, two-storey, wood-framed home on a double lot.
Since 2016 it served briefly as a welcome house for refugees, run by Victoria Immigrant and Refugee Centre.
In July, council tasked district staff with exploring potential uses to offset anticipated repair costs.
With minimal maintenance and occupancy since its purchase, staff estimates basic urgent repairs at $190,000, just to keep the building. Work to redeem residential occupancy is estimated at $315,000 and to get it to office occupancy requirements at $636,000.
The staff recommendation supported offices because the district, with little to no room left at municipal hall, is in dire need itself, specifically to provide space for staff budgeted and approved for the infrastructure renewal program. The report noted finding suitable office space to lease in Oak Bay is challenging. During the recent renovations at municipal hall, staff were housed in portables in the parking lot.
Coun. Hazel Braithwaite supported the notion and made the extended motion that would approve the $190,000 urgent repairs, then the funds to get it to residential living standards, apply for rezoning (required if it were to be office space) and the funds for repairs to workplace standards.
Mayor Kevin Murdoch split the motion into three, upon request from Coun. Andrew Appleton, a move which itself didn’t have consensus around the table.
Coun. Carrie Smart opposed, noting there may be provincial opportunities coming to help provide affordable housing in the community, and she isn’t comfortable tying up what might be the site with the most potential. The rest of council agreed to the first motion and second, approving funds to bring the home to living standards.
Appleton, currently a proponent of leaving the home as housing, wanted more information and made a motion to refer rezoning and future upgrades back to staff for an options analysis on needs for expanded municipal office space. He asked the report to consider operational requirements and a cost-benefit comparison.
Find the full report on the Nov. 27 agenda at oakbay.civicweb.net.
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