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Mufflers on move in White Rock

The White Rock Mufflers site has been sold, and the business, a fixture on Marine Drive since 1973, will wind down operations over the next three months. - Dan Ferguson photo
The White Rock Mufflers site has been sold, and the business, a fixture on Marine Drive since 1973, will wind down operations over the next three months.
— image credit: Dan Ferguson photo

A piece of prime waterfront real estate has been sold – but the existing White Rock Mufflers business will still continue there for a few months at least, according to the previous owners.

The landmark property, at Marine Drive and Oxford Street, changed hands Aug. 28 for a reported $4.5 million. The 29,800-sq.-ft. site includes the current auto repair shop and car dealership.

NAI Commercial, in announcing the sale Wednesday, confirmed two additional lots on Buena Vista Avenue were sold to the same unspecified purchaser. Combined, the three properties were part of a contentious development proposal last year. That proposal, submitted to the city by Georgia Laine Developments, was for a three-building residential/commercial complex, Marine Terraces.

Richard Saunders, who co-owned the property with his brother, Dan, said the buyer is “an off-shore company with headquarters in Richmond” and said it’s his understanding the new ownership is taking over the Georgia Laine proposal, including the site-specific zoning.

“From what I’ve heard, they’re … very high-end,” he said.

The agent for the new purchaser could not be reached by Peace Arch News press deadline Wednesday.

When the proposal went to public hearing in October, it received a mixed reaction from residents, some of whom were vocal in their concern about the height of the development and potential traffic congestion from some 84 condominium and townhouse units.

White Rock director of development services Paul Stanton said this week that while the city subsequently approved the zoning, a development permit application had not been taken out.

Stanton said the CD zoning would bind the new owners to the current plan, in which heights of the proposed buildings were reduced so they would not exceed what previous zoning allowed.

“The development permit will have to match the zoning, or they will have to go to the public on the zoning,” Stanton said.

Ken Fairweather, who lives behind the property, is concerned the development would set a precedent allowing the owner of another property closer to his to lobby for a taller building.

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“My concern is they are going to relax the zoning on the next project, and that’s really going to screw my view,” Fairweather told PAN Wednesday.

Fairweather was one of the residents who campaigned against plans to build taller structures.

Sandra Sammartino, who lives beside the site, said the development won’t directly interfere with the waterfront view but will mean more traffic and congestion.

“We just think it’s bad news for White Rock,” she said.

Saunders said plans are for White Rock Mufflers – a fixture on the waterfront since 1973 – to wind down operations at the site over the next three months, with another three months of cleanup before they vacate it.

They are searching for new premises – “anywhere from Mud Bay Road to 200 Street.”

“It wouldn’t be White Rock Mufflers if it was in Langley or Newton,” he said.

Some potential sites in South Surrey have fallen through in the 2½ years it has taken to complete a sale of their property, he added, noting that an annual tax bill of some $80,000 was a big deciding factor for selling.

“We wouldn’t be moving if it wasn’t for the taxes,” Saunders said, adding he understood the property would have to shoulder a large tax burden in a small city like White Rock.

“It’s the nature of the beast,” he said, noting at the same time, other auto shops on the Peninsula are paying $3,000-$4000 per month for their premises, including heat, equipment and taxes.

“I’d be down around $100,000 a year in tax and insurance – it’s hard to be competitive in the market like that.”

Formerly the site of Walton’s Service station, the property was leased from Shell Oil by White Rock Mufflers, before buying it outright in 1974, acquiring the derelict BCER bus depot on Buena Vista in 1986.

Leaving will be bittersweet, Saunders admitted.

 

“We wont have he same situation ever again where we’ll be able to look out the window and see the water,” he said.

 

- with files from Dan Ferguson

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