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White Rock construction still down

The pace of construction in White Rock has yet to return to levels of 2004-07 – and was slower in 2010 than 2009 – but city officials say statistics show it is making inroads.

The number of building permits issued last year “show signs of progressive improvement,” writes Paul Stanton, the city’s director of planning and development services, in a report for members of the city’s land use and planning committee.

“The rate and value of construction activity is still down from 2004 to 2007 levels, however, it is showing signs of gradual increase.”

According to Stanton’s report, 184 building permits were issued in 2010, the same as were issued the year prior. However, total construction value of the permits declined 7.2 per cent, from $43,617,266 in 2009 to $40,466,278 last year.

Stanton told committee members this week that two projects “heavily skewed” the 2009 values: a $3.1-million renovation permit for the maternity ward at Peace Arch Hospital and a $10.3-million construction permit for the Essence parkade. The latter project, at Johnston, Thrift and George streets, has yet to begin.

Stanton said the renovation tax credit can also be credited for much of the 2009 activity.

An increase in new residential dwelling units and demolitions resulted in 66 new dwelling units in 2010, up from 46 in 2009. There was also an increase in permits issued for commercial properties, although most of those were for leasehold improvements, Stanton noted.

Commercial permit values totalled “less than $1 million” in 2010, he said.

Asked by Mayor Catherine Ferguson if, based on the numbers, he is optimistic about the city’s future, Stanton said White Rock has been “holding our own.”

It will “bode well” for the city as projects that were deferred as a result of the dip in the economy come forward, he said.

Stanton told Peace Arch News the city receives “over 90 per cent” of its tax dollars through residential taxation. Only West Vancouver is more reliant than White Rock on those revenues, Stanton said.

A retail-needs assessment that got underway this week is hoped to identify ways to more evenly spread the tax burden, by attracting more business to the city. Commercial properties pay 2.4 times more tax than residential, Stanton noted.

Ferguson said she is optimistic a town centre design to be done this spring will help bring investment to the city, by showing the city’s vision for the future.

It will be a “real important place-card for us,” she said. “We can show them where we’re going.”

Regarding the city’s current reliance on residential taxation, Ferguson said she doesn’t know what would be a healthier split for the city.

“Certainly, it has to be more diversified than it is now.”

Ferguson described White Rock as “at a real transition point,” and said change is inevitable.

How that unfolds will be critical, she added.

“I think it’s going to be imperative how we move along,” she said. “There’s going to be change. Are we going to manage that change or be reactive?”

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