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Split votes sideline Finlay, Marine Drive projects

White Rock Coun. Larry Robinson examines a townhouse project proposed for Finlay Street during a public information meeting held at the White Rock Library in March. Below, three Marine Drive lots that were the subject of a proposal for a commercial/residential development. - File photos
White Rock Coun. Larry Robinson examines a townhouse project proposed for Finlay Street during a public information meeting held at the White Rock Library in March. Below, three Marine Drive lots that were the subject of a proposal for a commercial/residential development.
— image credit: File photos

Two major development projects in White Rock have been sidelined indefinitely, after split votes on zoning amendments prevented city council from considering related development permits.

Couns. Helen Fathers, Larry Robinson and Louise Hutchinson voted against both at council's July 23 meeting. Had the changes been supported, they would have facilitated construction of a 20-unit townhouse complex at 1526, 1536, 1550 and 1556 Finlay St. and a commercial/residential project eyed for 15577, 15581 and 15585 Marine Dr.

Mayor Wayne Baldwin – who, along with Couns. Al Campbell and Grant Meyer, supported the applications – described the stalemates as "interesting."

"A very indecisive evening," Baldwin said.

(Council is currently operating with six members, following the June 26 death of Mary-Wade Anderson.)

Both amendments had received unanimous support for first and second reading – the Finlay project on May 28 and the Marine Drive project on June 25 – and had gone through the public-hearing process.

Following the Finlay vote, Campbell expressed concern that the opposition was coming at a late stage, after the developer had followed the city's process.

To reject the project now "sends a message that our policies mean nothing," he said.

"There's something very wrong with what's just happened here."

In discussing the issue, Hutchinson cited concerns that the project does not meet the city's Official Community Plan (OCP) guidelines for density and width.

While she likes the type of housing proposed, she said, "the density did not meet the guidelines."

Robinson noted a pattern of creating site-specific zones to accommodate such projects "is catching up with us."

The project had received little support at a public hearing July 9. Among concerns expressed by several residents was that of an apparent trend developing in White Rock – of properties being bought up solely for investment purposes – by people with no other attachment to the community.

Regarding Hutchinson's density concerns, Baldwin said Monday that the issue "has been discussed, beaten to death."

"As far as I'm concerned, the horse is out of the barn on this one."

Marine Drive projectRegarding the Marine Drive project, which was proposed to feature 10 condominium units and one commercial unit, both Hutchinson and Fathers expressed safety concerns with parking access directly off of Marine Drive, across a busy sidewalk.

"We're either creating a pedestrian-oriented waterfront or we're not," Hutchinson said.

At an earlier land-use meeting, Hutchinson said the access "totally defeats" the OCP.

"No new development was ever going to have parking accessible off of Marine Drive if there was lane access," she said. "(It's) totally against everything the city has been working toward all these years."

She was also concerned that supporting the proposal – which had evolved from a six-unit residential/three-unit commercial complex – would send the wrong message that East Beach is "dying as a commercial enterprise."

Stanton conceded that "it may be recognized that commercial units are a difficult sell for East Beach – that's the most politically correct way I can put it."

At a public hearing July 16, no one stood to speak for or against the project.

At council Monday, Baldwin agreed that the proposed plan was "not ideal."

At the same time, it is "probably… about as good as you're going to get."

It is a "very, very difficult site to deal with," he said.

"There is a reason that this project has been through three or four owners."

Robinson said he could not support the Marine Drive plan due to concerns he has heard, including around the "angle of containment" and parking.

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