De­vel­op­ers irate at White Rock coun­cil

New mayor, coun­cil­lors down­size height of two pro­posed tow­ers from 12 storeys to six

The Province - - NEWS - GLENDA LUYMES Gluymes@post­media.com Twit­ter.com/glen­daluymes

White Rock coun­cil voted Wed­nes­day to hit the pause but­ton on two 12-storey res­i­den­tial tow­ers planned for the city’s down­town core, a de­ci­sion one de­vel­oper said would “oblit­er­ate” sev­eral years of plan­ning work.

The newly-elected mayor, Dar­ryl Walker, said he heard from many res­i­dents dur­ing the cam­paign who were frus­trated by overde­vel­op­ment, specif­i­cally “height re­stric­tions that were well above what the peo­ple of White Rock thought to be rea­son­able.”

At a spe­cial meet­ing Wed­nes­day night, the first coun­cil meet­ing since Walker and four of his Democ­racy Di­rect run­ning mates were elected, coun­cil voted to cut the al­low­able height for two pro­posed mixed-use build­ings on John­ston Road from 12 storeys to six while the city re­views its Of­fi­cial Com­mu­nity Plan or OCP.

Al­though both projects, the 12-storey Lady Alexan­dra and the 12-storey Solterra, had re­ceived de­vel­op­ment per­mits and were within the lim­its set out in the city’s OCP, they had not yet ap­plied for a build­ing per­mit.

Projects that had re­ceived or ap­plied for a build­ing per­mit, in­clud­ing sev­eral tow­ers over six storeys al­ready un­der con­struc­tion, were not af­fected by coun­cil’s de­ci­sion.

At the same meet­ing, coun­cil also voted to re­view the OCP, which was passed by the pre­vi­ous coun­cil in 2017 af­ter al­most three years of con­sul­ta­tion. Walker said he could not com­ment on the process used to ar­rive at the city’s cur­rent com­mu­nity plan be­cause he was not on coun­cil, but he said he felt White Rock’s elec­torate had given him a man­date to “go back and re­view” the doc­u­ment that guides plan­ning and land use in the city.

Coun. He­len Fa­thers said her in­ten­tion in vot­ing to re­view the OCP and build­ing heights was “not to dec­i­mate th­ese projects.”

The in­cum­bent coun­cil­lor said de­bate in White Rock is of­ten split be­tween pro- and anti-de­vel­op­ment voices, and “coun­cil’s job is to find some­thing in the mid­dle.”

The de­vel­oper be­hind one of the pro­posed build­ings on John­ston Road said he was wor­ried coun­cil had be­come anti-de­vel­op­ment. “We’ve spent years work­ing on this, con­sult­ing with city plan­ners,” said Peter Cross. “The first thing (coun­cil has) done is at­tack us.”

Cross said go­ing from 12 storeys to six storeys will re­quire a com­plete re­design of his project.

He was also con­cerned about an ap­prox­i­mately 20-per-cent re­duc­tion in the al­low­able den­sity on the site.

“I think they’ve opened a can of worms,” he said, adding he an­tic­i­pates his team will be seek­ing le­gal ad­vice on next steps.

For­mer mayor Wayne Bald­win said the OCP process was ex­ten­sive and in­cluded many pub­lic meet­ings and open houses.

“The new coun­cil is com­prised en­tirely of peo­ple who did not agree with some of the de­ci­sions made in that process, so it comes as no sur­prise that upon elec­tion they would im­me­di­ately take on a process of at­tempt­ing to re­verse the OCP in some ar­eas at least,” he said.

Bald­win said he felt it was coun­cil’s right to re­verse past de­ci­sions as long as it was done within the law.

“White Rock has a his­tory of bounc­ing be­tween coun­cils that want to deal with growth and change, and those that want no growth and no change, and right now we are deal­ing with the lat­ter.”

FRAN­CIS GE­OR­GIAN/PNG

The project at 1310 John­ston Rd. in White Rock was orig­i­nally ap­proved at 12 storeys, but the new White Rock coun­cil voted Wed­nes­day to re­strict the height of two pro­posed de­vel­op­ments to six storeys.

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