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Residents, builders critical as White Rock targets mega homes

White Rock Mayor Wayne Baldwin addresses attendees of a public information meeting held Tuesday in council chambers. - Tracy Holmes photo
White Rock Mayor Wayne Baldwin addresses attendees of a public information meeting held Tuesday in council chambers.
— image credit: Tracy Holmes photo

Ridiculous, rushed, unfair and damaging were among the descriptions given to amendments proposed for White Rock’s single-family zoning bylaw.

“If this bylaw changes, I’m going to be limited to a 2,800-square-foot house with a dungeon,” Trevor Johnson told city officials during a public-information meeting Tuesday.

“Property values in RS-1 zones are going to crumble.”

The proposed amendments – aimed at limiting the size of houses that can be built on single-family lots – include adjusting the calculation of maximum gross floor area to include limiting the permitted floor area of a home’s second storey to 80 per cent of its first floor; and, ensuring that the floor area of day-lighted basements is included in lot-coverage calculations.

“We think it addresses some of the needs,” city planner Connie Halbert told the dozen-plus residents who turned out.

“This is the alternative that council, in a planning session, felt was the best alternative.”

The need for change was highlighted last month by concerns with a $2-million, 14,000-square-foot home under construction at the corner of Cliff Avenue and Kent Street.

The lot was excavated to its property lines to enable two levels of daylighted basement to be built below natural grade, effectively removing the area of those two levels from lot-coverage calculations.

As everything was done by the book, and no variances were requested, city officials had no choice but to allow the project to proceed.

The developer “pushed the envelope as far as they could push it to build the maximum that they could build,” the city’s director of planning, Paul Stanton, had told Peace Arch News. “The legislation’s very clear. If they meet the B.C. Building Code requirements and they meet the city’s zoning bylaw and other criteria, we have an obligation – we have to issue the permit.”

Halbert told attendees Tuesday that efforts are underway to revamp the zoning bylaw as a whole, with a draft expected to be brought forward in January.

Changes proposed for the RS-1 zone, however, are being fast-tracked, she said, to prevent similar applications from coming forward. They could – and most likely will – change again in the overall review, she noted.

“This is an interim measure to give us a chance to do more fine-tuned exploration.”

Developer Lorenzo Arcari said the move is driving business away from White Rock. He confirmed with Halbert that the changes would impact applications that come forward from people who have already bought their lots but haven’t yet submitted their designs to the city.

“I talked to two builders today and they said they’re done building in White Rock,” he said.

Mayor Wayne Baldwin said he sympathizes with residents who are in that position, but said steps must be taken as soon as possible.

“We’ve got a bit of a problem,” Baldwin told the group. “We have to close this gap before we end up with a bunch of messes on our hands. We have to get this in before Christmas. There are a lot of applications coming through.”

Johnson cautioned against rushing into changes. Thousands of people will be affected, he said.

“Let’s not create other problems because we have problems.”

Suggestions offered by attendees included limiting the maximum house size, creating another zone, limiting number of basements and better defining daylighting.

Halbert assured residents the comments will be included in a report to council. If council gives the amendments first and second reading, a public hearing is expected to take place Dec. 10. Council next meets Nov. 26.

 

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