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Opinions voiced at Oxford Street public hearing
Comments on a project proposed for the corner of Oxford Street and Marine Drive ran the gamut at White Rock city hall Monday, when about 50 residents turned out to a public hearing to have their say.
Vehemently opposed by some and strongly supported by others, Marine Terraces is proposed as a three-building residential/commercial complex on 1.14 acres between Buena Vista Avenue and Marine Drive, including the White Rock Muffler site.
To proceed, Georgia Laine Developments needs amendments made to the city’s Official Community Plan and zoning – changes many residents have maintained should not be considered. Reasons cited Monday include the impact to traffic congestion, views and an already challenging parking situation; the possibility the developer could simply decide to flip the site; the fact that residents who have asked for even minor amendments have been turned down flat; and, because rules are rules.
“Your Official Community Plan and bylaws are contracts with your residents, like me,” said Hollie Whitehead, a Buena Vista Avenue resident, suggesting council entertain proposals that require no OCP amendments. “Wasn’t that the purpose of creating a plan in the first place?”
In addition to speaking, Whitehead submitted a list of 47 others who are also opposed to the project.
Supporters told council the development is long overdue and would “establish an intelligent precedent” for future proposals. In addition, the developer has made significant changes to accommodate concerns raised, including those surrounding heights, said White Rock resident Larry Robinson.
Robinson noted the site is a liability to the city, given that it’s on a floodplain and needs remediation. Any developer taking on that liability “should be applauded,” he said.
Dan Saunders, who is part-owner of the White Rock Muffler site, said benefits to the city would include jobs, paid parking spaces and about $200,000 per year in taxes.
He noted the property was offered to the city for purchase two years ago, and could have been bought and used at that time for whatever purpose officials deemed appropriate.
“Obviously, council turned that down. As a citizen of White Rock, I think this project makes sense.”
In a written submission supporting the project, restaurant owner Nicholas Popoff said he will be forced to consider moving his operations to South Surrey if White Rock doesn’t “keep up with the times and understand that density is important to keeping business in White Rock.”
While opponents said they recognized change is inevitable, they are concerned if the city approves the amendments, it will set a precedent for future projects.
Roper Avenue resident Bryan Boyce told council there is still a lot of confusion amongst residents as to what is at stake and why the proposal appears to be moving through the process so quickly. He appealed to the politicians to take their time on a decision.
“There’s so much to be considered for such a precious piece of property,” Boyce said. “We just ask that you really take a hard, hard look at this process and get everybody onboard before you move forward.”
Some speakers criticized Georgia Laine president Robert Wilson – comments architect Tim Ankenman took exception to.
“No man that I know has done more for the Downtown Eastside than my client,” he said, citing projects in Vancouver that have benefited the less fortunate.
In response to concerns about traffic congestion, Ankenman cited a plan to have “five or six” communal cars available to residents of Marine Terraces. He agreed to work on a traffic plan with city staff, and also assured that proponents would not come back after the fact asking to build higher.
Ankenman noted he sat on the city’s advisory design panel when a project was proposed for the same site – minus the two residential lots considered in the latest proposal – about 10 years ago. It didn’t go ahead because no one thought to include the two lots and no one wanted to take on the necessary remediation, he said.
If the Georgia Laine development is approved, it means “getting this site cleaned up once and for all,” Ankenman said.