Karen Bourne in her backyard, an Oak Bay oasis of enamel. (Black Press Media file photo)

Karen Bourne in her backyard, an Oak Bay oasis of enamel. (Black Press Media file photo)

Looking back at the top Oak Bay stories of 2020

Five stories that captured the interest of Oak Bay News readers over the past year

While COVID-19 dominated the headlines around the world in 2020, that wasn’t the only story to pique the interest of Oak Bay News readers. Here are some of our favourite articles that appeared in the Oak Bay News this year.

Council approves wolf sculpture for Cattle Point

At first glance, the giant 25,000-pound marble sculpture doesn’t look like a wolf.

But step closer and the natural impression of a howling wolf becomes clearly visible on the broad face of the stone. It is complete with the natural details of a mouth, eye and chin line. Most of the features were already there when artist Kent Laforme sourced the stone in a Chemainus stone yard. But since May it has resided below a cathedral of fir and arbutus trees in Laforme’s outdoor Cordova Bay studio. It’s there that Laforme has slowly and carefully chipped away at hundreds of stone projects over the past 20 years.

In October, Oak Bay council approved the Takaya sculpture project to be permanently installed at Cattle Point.

Takaya was killed by a hunter in March after an eight-year run on Tl’ches (Discovery and Chatham Islands). The wolf’s legacy continues to grow, in part because the end of his life was closely monitored following his failed relocation after his January excursion to James Bay.

Looking Back: It took two years, $500,000 to build Oak Bay Marina in 1964

Before settlers, the shores along what is now known as Oak Bay bustled with canoes as the Indigenous Lekwungen-speaking people of the area sustainably thrived in villages there for thousands of years.

In 1851, the Hudson Bay Company sold its first section of the Victoria ward to HBC’s John Tod. By the 1890s much of (what would be) Oak Bay was sought after and development was underway. But it wasn’t until the construction of the Mount Baker Hotel in 1893 that Turkey Head became a regular boat launch.

Then came the 1902 fire that destroyed the Mount Baker Hotel. In 1908, the owners of a new Oak Bay Hotel at Beach Drive and Windsor Drive (later known as the Old Charming Inn) had Sam Maclure design a boathouse on piles that was capable of hosting guests. One report says it was built on the Orchard Avenue side of Turkey Head and moved to the other side, where the marina currently stands, in 1915.

By the late 1950s Bill Faith, an Irish immigrant, was the boathouse lessee and also had big ideas for a marina. But it took the ambition and talents of Bob Wright to string it all together.

With the 1962 construction of Oak Bay’s first and only 10-storey building, the Rudyard Kipling condo at Beach and Windsor, and the subsequent completion of the marina, the traditional Oak Bay landscape was revamped. Eventually, the marina opened Sealand from 1969 to 1992, but that is another story.

Oak Bay toilet garden brings relief in a time of stress

For the last decade, visitors on a narrow path between Mountjoy and Falkland roads in south Oak Bay have witnessed an enamel oasis like no other.

The gravel pathway is charming in itself, with a ceiling of branches on one end that neighbour Tom Bourne regularly clips, creating a tunnel effect about four metres long. Next to the tunnel is the Bournes’ garden, where Tom and Karen keep two dozen toilets recycled into garden planters.

The toilets come in a rainbow of colours and are an icebreaker for conversation. In fact, they’ve even become a destination, Karen said.

“A lot of people tell us they’ve never seen anything like it,” she said. “Walking groups make it a destination, gardeners will knock on the door, and people will ask if we need a toilet.”

The answer right now is no, they have enough toilets, thank you.

“Unless it’s a real bright red,” Karen said, “but I don’t think we’re going to find one.”

Oak Bay United Church votes to pause any development

The Oak Bay United Church congregation voted to step back and will not move forward with its latest proposal for a rental housing development that would have put between 36 to 68 housing units within 250 metres of Oak Bay Village.

It ends a process that went public in 2017 but started even before that.

The church had decided on the 96-unit proposal it submitted to Oak Bay in 2018. It faced significant push back from a group of neighbours and was withdrawn before the necessary rezoning application ever made it to Oak Bay council.

However, the church did not give up on the idea of affordable housing. Last year Oak Bay United reached out to the Property Resource Team of The Pacific Mountain Region, an arm of the United Church of Canada. The property resource team conducted a feasibility study regarding the possibility of a purpose-built rental housing project at the property and brought back three proposals, which range from 36 to 68 units. The study came back with three scenarios and none of them resembled the previous proposal either in the number of housing units or site layout.

Because the church’s goal was to operate rental units, including below-market-rate units, a high threshold was needed to keep the project in the green, said Reverend Keith Howard.

“We are not closing the door on a future proposal,” Howard said. “The number of housing units that are involved in their proposal, to make it economically feasible, is more than 36 to 68 units. That number is a long way from what we had hoped.”

Oak Bay Lodge to be demolished

A request for proposals released in December shows that Oak Bay Lodge is scheduled to be razed.

The new RFP from the Capital Regional Hospital District seeks a construction manager to “procure and manage the deconstruction and demolition of the existing buildings” on the 3.9-acre site at 2251 Cadboro Bay Rd.

The budget for the demolition is estimated at $1.4 million, and includes hazardous material removal.

It is likely the final end to any speculation about using the facility to house either the senior portion (over 55), or all, of the people currently sheltering in Victoria parks. BC Housing had already declined on pursuing the matter earlier this fall.

The CRHD is in the process of planning that community consultation for early 2021, and will seek community feedback on the future use of the Oak Bay Lodge site.

The public engagement process will include significant notification to ensure that residents are informed of the opportunity for public input, said the CRD in a statement.


 

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Artist Kent Laforme with the Takaya sculpture in his Cordova Bay studio. (Black Press Media file photo)

Artist Kent Laforme with the Takaya sculpture in his Cordova Bay studio. (Black Press Media file photo)

Oak Bay is seeking new ideas for the use of Turkey Head in its request for proposals to renew the lease of Oak Bay Marina and Turkey Head. (Black Press Media file photo)

Oak Bay is seeking new ideas for the use of Turkey Head in its request for proposals to renew the lease of Oak Bay Marina and Turkey Head. (Black Press Media file photo)

Oak Bay signs that protest the United Church’s development proposal ask why people with stately-sized houses fear that they will lose something if someone else gains. (Black Press Media File Photo)

Oak Bay signs that protest the United Church’s development proposal ask why people with stately-sized houses fear that they will lose something if someone else gains. (Black Press Media File Photo)

Consultation for the redevelopment of the Oak Bay Lodge property will be conducted this fall. (Black Press Media file photo)

Consultation for the redevelopment of the Oak Bay Lodge property will be conducted this fall. (Black Press Media file photo)

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