A project that has been the subject of hot debate in White Rock for the past two years received the go-ahead this week at city hall.
Council voted 4-3 Monday evening in favour of giving third and final reading to a zoning bylaw amendment that accommodates the development of Marine Terraces, a commercial/residential complex at the corner of Oxford Street and Marine Drive.
The vote followed a failed motion by Coun. Helen Fathers to have the project deferred.While Couns. Al Campbell and Louise Hutchinson agreed with Fathers, Mayor Wayne Baldwin and Couns. Bill Lawrence, Larry Robinson and Grant Meyer did not.
“It’s within the height limit, it’s less units than originally planned… I thought that met the concerns of quite a few of the people,” Meyer told Peace Arch News after the vote.
The project, to be built on the former White Rock Mufflers site and two lots on Buena Vista Avenue, was first proposed in January 2011. From the get-go, neighbours expressed concerns over height, view impacts, density and potential impact to traffic.
That fall, after months of discussion and revisions, the then-council approved amendments that moved the development forward.
Shortly after, the site was flipped and the new owner, Richmond-based LLW Holdings Ltd., asked for permission to reduce the number of residential units, add a fifth building and increase parking. LLW also asked to increase the height of one building by nearly two feet, to offset a height difference created by a city miscalculation of the floodplain.
Those amendments went to public hearing last month, at which time the developer conceded the extra height and removed the fifth building from the plans.
In opposing the latest amendments, Campbell described the project as “troubling, to say the least,” and stated he was against anything that strayed from the original proposal.
Baldwin came under fire from council attendees after he spoke to comments made by residents at the Feb. 25 public hearing, and for criticizing the previous council.
Baldwin described residents’ claims the city’s Official Community Plan was not followed as “absolutely incorrect.” He also rejected comments that council acted without transparency.
Comments from the gallery after the vote included, “They don’t listen to the people,” “Money and greed, money and greed” and, “He is the boss – remember that.”
Robinson admonished irate attendees.
“If this is going to be a civil meeting and you expect us to act responsibly, you should do the same,” he said.
Fathers, however, criticized Baldwin for attacking the former council.
“It really disappoints me that you continually malign the last council,” she said. “As the mayor, it’s wrong.”
Tuesday, Baldwin told Peace Arch News he felt bad that residents have gone through so much.
“I’m really sorry that the people in the neighbourhood were put through such a grinder,” he said. “It wasn’t handled really well, right from the get-go. That’s really got them into a combative mood.”
He was also surprised at the reaction to the decision.
“The developer listened to what was being said and modified the plans at some considerable expense,” Baldwin said. “All in all, I thought that’s a real win-win situation.”
Regarding calls that he was out of order, Baldwin said he had the right to speak.
“If they want to chair the meeting, they have to go through a process to get there,” he said. “The audience is there to be witness. We had listened to them at the public hearing. At council, it’s time for council to speak.”
Resident Bob Berger told PAN Wednesday that many attendees felt Baldwin’s comments were “a cheap shot… not very mayoral.” They also felt more opportunity to clarify some of the issues was needed.
Regarding council’s decision, Berger said he will “grieve and move on.”
“I think the process left much to be desired and I would only hope that there was something learned in this… something about process. I have to say, I have my doubts.”