Submitted by the James Bay Neighbourhood Association

The Annual General Meeting for 2015 preceded the April 13, 2016 general monthly meeting of the James Bay Neighbourhood Association (JBNA). The meeting was informative and enjoyable with no battles to be fought.

Sue Ann Gentry of New Horizons began the evening with an explanation of the development of a Pollinator Gardenin Irving Park. A bee-hive apiary has been set up outside the north facing windows of the large meeting room of New Horizons. Gentry presented plans for the expansion of the pollinator garden in front of the building – stretching towards the side and up into the park.

The park is recognized as an under-utilized core to the neighbourhood. Every opportunity to increase park activity is encouraging. Groups of school children are already taking advantage of the opportunity to observe the existing bee area.

The chain link fence at the south east corner of the park along Menzies Street will be opened for a non-paved walkway allowing increased access to the Apiary. Housing for native bees and pollinators is planned as a future development.

Nick Armstrong, City of Victoria Transportation, reported on plans for:

Niagara Street: Road closure at Dallas and new Niagara sidewalk(s). The barriers at the end of Niagara at Dallas were installed in the 1980’s. Nick is looking for ideas on how this small area can be designed more creatively – perhaps with provision for bikes and pedi-cabs, with no vehicle traffic. He is available to “walk” areas with residents to discuss ideas.

The parking lots and tree roots present challenges to a sidewalk on Niagara but there are still opportunities. Residents expressed interest in keeping the green space, trees and integrity of the neighbourhood, and suggested rehabilitating the boulevard, while taking advantage of the option for “soft walk”, perhaps with a mid-block crosswalk and cross-over.

A new crosswalk (with flashers) at the Douglas/Michigan intersection will be installed this year. Marg Gardiner commented on sidewalk priorities and City’s new criteria. The Erie St cross-walk was high priority at one point while, Michigan Street was low. A priority shift for this year was done for political reason. She has written to City to ask for other James Bay crosswalks to be evaluated so that they may be included in future City crosswalk planning. 

Jacques Sirois gave a stunning presentation on the Victoria Harbour Bird Sanctuary. Sirois, a biologist, naturalist, birdwatcher, and formerly with the Canadian Wildlife Service, Environment Canada, is chair of the Friends of the Victoria Harbour Bird Sanctuary.

The group is dedicated to “resurrection” of the unusual and very urban Victoria Harbour Bird Sanctuary, the first Migratory Bird Sanctuary on the Pacific coast of Canada. The sanctuary stretches from Esquimalt Harbour around to Ten Mile Pont in Oak Bay. A map of the sanctuary boundary can be found on Janis Ringuette's Beacon Hill Park site:

http://www.beaconhillparkhistory.org/graphics/mapsF.htm

Additional information is available on the Facebook page – Friends of the Victoria Harbour Migratory Bird Sanctuary

James Cheng, James KM Cheng Architects, and Cole Millen, Director of Operations, Fairmont Empress Hotel, reviewed some of the changes underway at the Empress.

The Empress property is NOT within the boundaries of James Bay. The presentation was made as a courtesy to a neighbouring community.

A building is being planned for the southeast corner of the lot to replace the existing bus terminal. It would include underground parking with rental accommodation on upper floors and retail at ground level. The lower floors are intended to be just under 10,000 sq. ft.

Residents expressed the hope for a dramatic, innovative building that did not attempt to copy the Rattenbury Empress and praised the opening up the gardens with removal of the hedge along Belleville Street. Exterior scaffolding will be down shortly and new exterior lighting should be operational by mid-May.

The Gardening Committee, set up in October, 2015, to encourage gardening, especially food gardening across James Bay, has completed an inventory, documenting public and semi-public gardens, the extent of boulevard gardening, how many apartments and condos provide garden space for their tenants. This survey will provide a base line against which to measure change. Communication through the James Bay Beacon and the JBNA website are keeping James Bay residents informed about current garden activities and issues. Enquiries both from people with land to offer to gardeners and from people looking for land to garden is being compiled into info/resource sheets. Gardening space in new developments is being encouraged. Several committee members participated in the City of Victoria planning for the development of new Community Garden Policy.

Watch for a neighbourhood plant swap & sale on May 14.

The City of Victoria is updating its Heritage Register and has identified 50 candidate properties across six neighbourhoods for addition to the register. An upcoming information session to be hosted by the City will provide information and answer questions about the heritage register for candidate property owners. The meeting will be composed of a brief presentation about the heritage register and the City’s heritage program as a whole, followed by an informal roundtable discussion whereby property owners can ask questions about the register to representatives from the VHF, VCHT, City Staff and representatives from Neighbourhood Associations.

The BC Lottery Corporation has announced that Victoria and Saanich are being considered for a casino license. In a subsequent interview, Mayor Lisa Helps suggested that a facility could be placed in James Bay or on Douglas Street.

To test the pulse of the community, JBNA posed the following to the James Bay resident e-mail listings. “The JBNA Board is seeking your opinion regarding the possibility of James Bay being the site for a casino. Your comments would assist us in forming a response. Please respond to JBNA with your views, whether pro or con.”

In four days, 84 residents responded. Of the 84 e-mails, 68 residents were opposed, with many, if not most, being “vehemently opposed”; 12 residents provided “conditional acceptance/support for a casino” citing varying conditions relating to transportation impacts and facility siting; and 4 residents would support a casino in James Bay.

Next Month

Join your neighbours for monthly meetings of the James Bay Neighbourhood Association on the 2 Wednesday of every month (that's Wednesday, the 11 in May) at James Bay New Horizons on Menzies Street at 7pm.

This month's presentations and discussions will focus on land-use, in different forms in the northwest quadrant of James Bay.

The initial presentation will be a proposal for a 21 unit complex on the corner of Montreal and Niagara. Directors of Shakespeare by the Sea, who have proposed siting the Bard's performances at Fisherman's Wharf Park this summer, will follow. Fisheries & Oceans staff will then describe the roof replacement of the formerly green roof of the Canadian Coast Guard facility at Dallas and Huron. The final presentation will be by the City of Victoria, focussing on the design and installation of the Heron Cove bridges (part of the Harbour Pathway).