Peace Arch News

Bureaucratic error cuts size of setbacks for White Rock project

  - File photo
— image credit: File photo

An error interpreting guidelines for bare-land strata developments has led White Rock council to approve a subdivision in which two of nine lots have smaller setbacks than the city typically allows.

The Bishop Road project was designed based on figures provided by city staff, proponents noted at a public hearing last month.

“This mistake was not our mistake,” said developer Trevor Johnson. “We were given the setbacks and designed our subdivision around it.”

An application to permit the reduced setbacks (3.8 metres instead of the usual 7.5m) for the lots immediately adjacent to Bishop Road was made following word that the design did not meet the city’s guidelines.

According to a staff report, the city initiated the application following “some confusion” around what the required setbacks should be.

“The city advised the applicants, in error, that the required exterior side lot setback would be 3.8 metres, and they designed the layout of the strata lots based on this understanding,” writes Richard Wilson, who was acting director of development services at the time.

Applying the required 7.5m setbacks “significantly reduces the building envelope” for the two lots, he adds.

Without the variance, widths of the two affected lots will be reduced to 29 feet from 41, Johnson said, citing impacts to land values as well as the look of the project.

About two dozen people attended the Dec. 10 public hearing; another six submitted written comments, with five in favour of allowing the development to proceed.

The majority of speakers at the public hearing voiced support for the project, with one stating simply that he doesn’t want “to see tax dollars wasted in litigation” that would likely result if the city denied the variance.

Stanton said the issue will be clarified in bylaw revisions that are expected to come to council in the coming weeks.

He told Peace Arch News that as the bylaw stands now, “it’s easy to make mistakes.”

“It’s ambiguous.”

The error was not the city’s first in recent weeks. PAN reported in November on how a miscalculation of where natural grade begins means a commercial/residential project approved for the West Beach area will sit two feet higher than original designs showed.

Council gave unanimous support to approving the Bishop Road development variance permit at the Dec. 17 meeting.

The project will be White Rock’s third bare-land strata.


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