JBNA: Planning Our Community


Submitted by the James Bay Neighbourhood Association

The City of Victoria took pride of place on the agenda for the November 2017 general meeting of the James Bay Neighbourhood Association (JBNA). Two representatives from City of Victoria (CoV) Planning discussed the Local Area Plans currently in development in relation to the Official Community Plan, now five years old. They were followed by a very basic discussion of the CoV budget process.


Robert Battallas, CoV Senior Planner gave an overview of community planning and discussed the Official Community Plan (OCP) for Victoria, developed in 2012 as required by the Local Government Act. Adopted by City bylaw, the OCP addresses topics related to land use management, growth and transportation. Based upon a 30 year growth management concept, it “provides directions for growth and change”.

The City is currently in the process of updating all of the individual neighbourhood plans. These Local Area Plans (LAPs) feed into the OCP, providing context and local detail developed from within the community at the invitation of the City. OCP amendments may be required to implement policy direction from revised neighbourhood LAPs (eg changes to land use designations, density or building height). OCP Amendments require public consultation, a public hearing, and final decision by Council.

Other City initiatives, currently in process:

Short Term Rentals: No longer a permitted use (September 21 Council Decision); a regulatory framework, introduced to the public, was revised and presented to Council with an implementation schedule in November 2017. Info available at Victoria.ca/shorttermrentals

Off Street Parking Regulations (Schedule C) The City was able to determine (through access to ICBC data) how differences in ownership/occupancy among condo stratas, purpose built rentals, and low income housing affect vehicle ownership in the City. This data was considered in developing the revisions to Schedule C. The proposed bylaw will be considered by Council on December 14. The proposed regulations will not be binding and continued requests for 'variances' to parking requirements are anticipated. Current parking data on apartment buildings is available on the website or directly from City hall. Info available at Victoria.ca/zoningparking

Local Area Plan Updates (previously neighbourhood plans) The JBNA will organize visioning meetings among James Bay residents to listen to and report on the views of the community before the LAP starts in 2019. Once underway, there will be additional opportunities for residents to be heard. Plans for Fairfield, Gonzales and Vic West are underway or nearly completed. Planning for Fernwood, Jubilee, North Park, Rockland and Fort St Corridor start next year with James Bay, Hillside, Quadra, Oakland now scheduled in 2019. Only a few months ago, all plans were to be started in 2017 and completed in 2018 so this is a significant delay. The JBNA is concerned that the City may make key changes to zoning prior to the James Bay LAP review. Info available at victoria.ca/neighbourhoodsplans

During a Q&A session the following additional detail emerged:

- 40% of growth over the next 30 years is anticipated in eight urban villages throughout the City. James Bay’s identified growth will be around Five-Corners and Capital Park. Urban villages were determined by proximity to transportation systems and to the central City core, not the building types or geographical size.

- According to Stats Canada, James Bay has grown by approximately 750 residents since 2011. There are another 400+ projected with the development at Capital Park and conversion of Harbour Towers to rental. James Bay will realize more than 1000 additional residents before our LAP begins.

- In presenting projects to Council, planners do not summarize community comments from affected land owners, CALUC and public meetings, so as not to filter comments through City Staff. Community comments are provided directly to Council, and each Councillor is responsible for reviewing the details.

- A new zoning bylaw for the downtown core will be extended to neighbourhoods once the updated/revised LAPs are completed.

A Day in the Life of a Planner

Miko Betanzo, Development Services Senior Planner discussed the three types of CoV planners: the Planning Technicians who deal with technical analysis, the Long Range Planners who deal with community planning, develop policies, community plans and the OCP, and the Development Planners (such as himself) who implement and interpret policies and deal with development permits and rezoning applications. Miko, the development planner for James Bay, keeps a focus on growth, but also responds to sign applications, side walk cafés, site inspections, and advisory panel design. Development planners are the link between the current zoning Technicians and the Policy planners.

During a Q&A session the rationale for the City's approach to the Ogden Point Masterplan was challenged:

- Ogden Point doesn’t appear on the James Bay LAP map because another specific planner has been assigned to the Ogden Point masterplan. This plan, assumed to be relatively consistent with the OCP, will run in tandem with the James Bay LAP.

- Although the community will have input into both plans, the Ogden Point masterplan will seriously impact James Bay. The City is responsible for all of James Bay. The Ogden Point review should be an integral part of a comprehensive LAP process, especially when the Ogden Point masterplan has identified that it will be seeking partial re-zoning. The Ogden Point masterplan is the only area of land use that doesn’t appear to have any requirement to engage the community as other landowners are required to do. This is a significant concern for James Bay residents. In other LAPs industrial lands were considered in LAP discussions.

In the final presentation of the evening, Kimberley Stratford, City Engagement discussed the City of Victoria Budget: 

- Operating budget: regular expenses such as garbage collection, maintenance of facilities. Operating budgets are set by council.  Services levels are determined by council. Annual budget $274.6 million.

The Capital Budget is determined through masterplans and other documents (parks and open spaces master plan, transportation plans, neighbourhood plans etc). Capital budget also considers safety (traffic calming and crosswalks), replacement costs, age and condition of current city assets, maintenance history, risk assessment, coordination with other capital projects, and future capacity needs.

- Citizens can provide input on the 2018 budget through consultations planned for November and December 2017. For budget 2019, input is anticipated in February and March 2018, allowing for budget approval prior to the start of the fiscal year. Budget details and the Annual Report are on line at www.victoria.ca/budget. 58% of city revenue comes from property taxes, 51% of operating budget is employee salaries including VicPD.

- 1% of the total capital budget is placed in a reserve fund for capital projects. Although there are insufficient funds for the anticipated infrastructure upgrades currently in review, developing technologies will hopefully reduce costs.

- The previous City Manager initiated a city Asset Management program about two years ago. Councillor Margaret Lucas advised that a recently completed independent review of all city facilities had established priorities for maintenance. It is the first comprehensive review of all City facilities.

Join us for December 13 and January 10 JBNA general meetings. Both meetings have a full agenda. The December meeting will start with a rezoning proposal for 672 Niagara, followed by a discussion with City Transportation staff about the City’s role, and plans, for the street work for the Wastewater project, the Dallas routing and associated sub-projects. In January, the CRD Wastewater project team will be presenting an update on the project itself, with work plans for the project, the Camel/Ogden facility and the planning for the Dallas and Niagara components. Seasonal sweets will be offered at the December meeting. 

Season's Greetings to All!

A squirrel named Alfred

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You’re Invited to a Party