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LETTER: Oak Bay diverts course on marina decision

Right now, our community has an extraordinary opportunity to determine the future of Oak Bay’s publicly owned marina buildings, lands and surrounding waters for only the second time in 60 years.

Does it make sense to ask the same private company that has run the marina since 1962 to simply update its approach for another 30 years, or should we be using this opportunity to explore, with other levels of government, the full potential of this magnificent site to create something like Canada’s greenest marina, a meaningful economic partnership with the Songhees and Esquimalt Nations, a new home for the Maritime Museum of BC, or an environmental showpiece along the foreshore to Bowker Creek?

Is it reasonable for council to decline to provide the standard “this is what we heard from you” report back to the community on the only public input opportunity it has provided (a four-question questionnaire), and then to leave the representation of the community to unnamed negotiators?

Why, when councillors are privately conceding that the decision-making process for this initiative is lacking in community engagement, isn’t Oak Bay providing a more robust process like the Town of Sidney for the Beacon Wharf or its waterfront vision plan, the Capital Regional Hospital District for the former Oak Bay Lodge, or Oak Bay itself for its secondary suites strategy? Determining the future of the marina and the Spewhung/Turkey Head lands and waters involves important land-use decisions that require a significantly different process than one for purchasing photocopiers or procuring a service supplier.

What caused council’s commitment to consultation on this initiative to shift so dramatically? In December 2017 the Oak Bay News noted that then-Coun. Kevin Murdoch said that “…council should start thinking about a 30-year vision for the property. Whether negotiating a new lease with Oak Bay Marine group or going in a different direction, the unique benefits and challenges of the property will require a few years for the consultation needed to be able to effectively move forward with any major change to the site.” Why hasn’t that happened?

Bruce Kilpatrick

Oak Bay