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Council can't agree on overhaul plan, extends Oak Bay Marina lease for five years

Next council will be responsible for negotiating long-term plan; current lease expires this year
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Docks at the Oak Bay Marina. The District of Oak Bay owns the marina lands located at Turkey Head and leases the foreshore area occupied by the marina from the province. It leases the land and buildings and subleases the foreshore to the Oak Bay Marine Group. DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

Oak Bay council has extended the current Oak Bay Marina lease for five years as it works out its next steps, after failing to agree on redevelopment plans for the marina.

That means the next council — to be elected in Oct. 15 province-wide municipal elections — will be responsible for negotiating a long-term plan for the Beach Drive property operated by the Oak Bay Marine Group.

District Mayor Kevin Murdoch expects council will vote on the extension in early September following its summer break.

The current lease expires at the end of this year, and the extension will provide time for “more fulsome exploration of longer-term approaches to the site to create a lasting positive community legacy,” Murdoch said Monday.

Upcoming plans include dialogue with First Nations that will look “towards advancing strong relationships, prosperity, and stewardship of lands and waters,” he said.

Murdoch said he would be able to speak in more detail about the project once the agreement in principle is signed.

The district owns the marina lands located at Turkey Head and leases the foreshore area occupied by the marina from the province. It leases out the land and buildings and subleases the foreshore to the Oak Bay Marine Group.

In the fall of 2020, the district issued a request for proposals for a new 30-year lease of the land and foreshore. It said it wanted to see additional uses, community amenities and more vitality at the site.

In May 2021, after scoring proposals, council chose to negotiate with the Oak Bay Marine Group, founded by the late Bob Wright, who opened the marina in 1962.

While it featured performing orcas for many years, in recent years the marina’s features have included moorage, a restaurant, cafe, gift shop and offices.

The Oak Bay Marine Group’s proposal for the site included adding a plaza with a cycling station, a charging stations for e-bikes, a paddle-sports centre with rental equipment, a boat brokerage and a community meeting space.

Approval from a majority of council was needed to move forward on the proposal during the negotiation process but that didn’t happen, Murdoch said.

He would not discuss details, saying the matter was dealt with at private council sessions.

An Oak Bay Marine Group official could not be immediately reached.

A group called ReconciliACTION Oak Bay welcomed plans for a five-year lease extension, which it said would provide time for the district to hold “meaningful and respectful” conversations with the Songhees and Esquimalt Nations on mutual aspirations for the land.

Talks could examine economic and other partnerships and collaboration on the site, it said.

Monday’s announcement also represents an opportunity for the district to provide more “appropriate and robust” community engagement in the decision-making process, ReconciliACTION said.

cjwilson@timescolonist.com

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