Turkey Head and the surrounding marine area, including that area north of the marina to Cattle Point, is one of the most spectacular environments to be found in any city, and the status quo is not acceptable.
The public deserves more public consultation and transparency from Oak Bay council. A short period for the public to respond to basic brochures from the two proponents does not provide enough information to allow for adequate public comment from residents as well as other user groups. The International Association of Public Participation principles, which Oak Bay aspires to, calls for more opportunity at the front end of the Turkey Head and waterways proposals, as well as better transparency from Oak Bay council.
In the absence of more information, how are citizens and taxpayers able to provide necessary input and properly assess Oak Bay’s plans for protecting and managing the general area? What is Oak Bay planning, if anything, to manage abandoned and unauthorized boats moored in the bay adjacent to the marina? What steps are they preparing to take to protect this exceptional marine and migratory bird habitat? How do they plan to ensure access for all legitimate user groups, such as paddlers and visiting boaters? What assurances do residents and taxpayers have that Oak Bay is seeking the advice from business experts who truly understand the financial value of this public waterway and land space before entering into another 30-year arrangement?
The answer to these questions is that we simply do not know. Pretty pictures and broad proposals without sufficient detail do not constitute public consultation. Certainly some of the negotiations with prospective proponents of the marina lease will need to take place in camera. However, the environmental, community, and financial implications of entering into a new 30-year lease are great and the information available to the public thus far is too limited to allow for meaningful, thoughtful, and inclusive discussion.
Having volunteered on a number of committees as well as the Oak Bay advisory planning commission for a number of years, I have great respect for both the hard work and intentions of our mayor and council. Nonetheless, they need to up their game on this file. Thirty years is a generation long, and the decisions they make today will have a huge impact on both the environment and the community they serve.