Mayor Kevin Murdoch was elected in 2018 after one term as a councillor. (Black Press Media File Photo)

Mayor Kevin Murdoch was elected in 2018 after one term as a councillor. (Black Press Media File Photo)

COLUMN: A year in review and the year ahead, for Oak Bay council

A seasonal message from Oak Bay Mayor Kevin Murdoch

It’s been a big first year as new mayor and council.

With priorities set early in 2019 through an open Strategic Planning process, council has been tackling significant issues such as housing, infrastructure planning, and service excellence within a framework of economic, environmental and social sustainability.

We’re also supporting staff to ensure they can provide a timely response to daily “little things” like potholes, building maintenance, sidewalks, graffiti removal and more. This effort to fix pipes and roads meant a significant tax increase in 2019, an investment that will reduce long-term costs.

Other initiatives in 2019 included the hosting of community meetings, agendas published further in advance of meetings, and a more timely and responsive online presence. And 2020 will continue improvements in public engagement, robust reporting, longer-range financial planning, improved processes for committees and commissions, and new procedures, policies, and bylaws.

READ MORE: Study shows Oak Bay’s dwindling population is rapidly aging

With provincial financial support, 2019 saw the first application of immuno-contraception to our resident deer; this will continue in 2020 with measurement of the program’s effectiveness. The new year will also see a new Tree Protection Bylaw and other associated initiatives to protect our natural assets, with the newly established Community Climate Action Working Group informing climate change priorities.

It was a significant year for heritage including completion of the cenotaph restoration, and 2020 will bring forward Oak Bay’s first Heritage Conservation Area. We’ll also likely see restoration work begin on Tod House.

A key 2019 council priority has been planning for housing. Two key reports nearing completion will provide much-needed data: a housing needs report and secondary suites study. The District will use this and other data to develop a Housing Framework for planning. Creating the Housing Framework will see a significant request for community input in 2020 to help guide recommendations.

Oak Bay Parks, Recreation, and Culture continues to provide outstanding recreation services, programming, events, and facilities for ages two to 102. Public art is growing, events such as music and yoga in the park promote community health and connection, and our parks provide natural and sporting spaces for mental and physical benefit.

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Within municipal hall, 2019 saw the hiring of a permanent CAO, a Director of Corporate Services, a Director of Strategic Initiatives and a Director of Finance. In partnership with council, the leadership team is working hard developing enhancements to our community and setting high standards for operations.

The new year will begin by considering the Oak Bay Lodge lands’ future, the Oak Bay Marina/Turkey Head lease renewal, and continued work on files like regional housing, transportation, sewage, climate change, environment, and much more.

On behalf of council and myself, I would like to sincerely thank our staff, those individuals who sit on our boards, members of our committees and commissions, our community groups and the citizens of Oak Bay who contribute their time and energy to the betterment of our community. It has been a busy and productive year and I look forward to the next 12 months and beyond.

– Seasons greetings from Mayor Kevin Murdoch and Oak Bay council


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