White Rock approves controversial complex-care facility

White Rock Coun. Al Campbell explains his opposition to the proposed Evergreen Baptist care facility. Below, Belaire strata president Dennis Lypka expresses frustration during question period. - Tracy Holmes
White Rock Coun. Al Campbell explains his opposition to the proposed Evergreen Baptist care facility. Below, Belaire strata president Dennis Lypka expresses frustration during question period.
— image credit: Tracy Holmes

A proposed eight-storey care facility that has been the subject of much controversy in White Rock will proceed.

Council voted 4-2 (with Coun. Larry Robinson absent) to give third and final readings Monday to a zoning amendment bylaw that facilitates the project's construction on the Evergreen Baptist Campus of Care, at 1550 Oxford St.

It will add 92 new care beds to the Fraser Health region, and replace 107 existing Evergreen beds.

In voting against the project, Coun. Al Campbell said he is not opposed to new care beds for White Rock, but that he has concerns with the process that was followed; that the beds will not be dedicated to White Rock residents; and that the facility won't be built on the footprint of the two buildings that are being replaced.

"Quite frankly, there's nobody out there that would not want to see additional beds in White Rock," Campbell said. "Fifty per cent of the people don't like the situation. I don't like the situation and I don't like how it came to us."

Fraser Health announced the project in October as among four contracts that will increase the health authority's capacity in the Tri-Cities/Surrey/South Surrey area by 427 beds. (Evergreen's executive director Stephen Bennett confirmed this month that it had been the subject of confidential discussions for about six months prior.)

A public information meeting was held in November, and the project was detailed to council in early December.

At that time, "considerable angst" regarding the proposal prompted council members to defer a public hearing until the new year. It was subsequently held over two evenings earlier this month.

Many who expressed concerns are residents of the Belaire, a 12-storey condominium located immediately Dennis Lypkanorth of where the care facility is to be built. They, too, were upset with the process, as well as the facility's anticipated impacts to views, natural light, neighbourhood traffic and property values.

Those in favour described the need for more, and updated, facilities for seniors.

The bylaw that passed Monday includes amendments to the project that reduce its height by just under three metres, shift its footprint approximately three metres and increase its setback on the west by four metres.

Noting proponents had initially maintained that a number of those changes couldn't be done, Campbell said he agreed with opponents that the development will be detrimental to its neighbours.

"I'm supporting these people that are saying, 'I'm not against this, I just don't want this interrupting our lives.' And it will," he said.

"I think there's still another way."

Coun. Helen Fathers also voted against the project.

Following the decision, a number of Belaire residents who reiterated their concerns during question period were cut short by Mayor Wayne Baldwin, when questions veered towards criticisms of individual councillors or rehashed points aired during the public hearing.

"This is kind of degenerating into a '(let's) second-guess council,'" Baldwin said.

"We've gone through a process, we've reached a conclusion of process and it's over."

After the meeting, Belaire strata president Dennis Lypka described the outcome as "democracy not in action."

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