The City of White Rock will be taking a close look at how building heights are measured in response to concerns that manipulation of sites could enable construction of taller buildings in single-family zones. Contributed photo

The City of White Rock will be taking a close look at how building heights are measured in response to concerns that manipulation of sites could enable construction of taller buildings in single-family zones. Contributed photo

Building height calculations up for review in White Rock

City looks to forestall site manipulation in single-family zones

The City of White Rock will be considering different approaches to measuring building heights as a way to forestall manipulation of the ‘average natural grade’ of properties to enable construction of higher buildings in single-family zones.

At its Feb. 8 meeting council endorsed a staff recommendation to include this in a review of single-family home zones included in the city’s zoning bylaw, expected in the fall of this year.

In a corporate report, planning and development services director Carl Isaak told council the move came in response to a hillside resident’s concerns that site alteration activities on a neighbouring property could “artificially enable, through the stock-piling of soil, a taller building.”

The situation, Isaak said, “reportedly involved the stockpiling of enough quantities of soil that the concerned resident believes could impact slope stability and stormwater runoff.”

Unless the city goes through the lengthy process of creating a soil management bylaw, he added, it does not have a legal mechanism to prohibit site alteration that is not otherwise subject to a city approval process.

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An alternative, he suggested, would be to investigate other ways of measuring building heights instead of starting at the average natural grade, White Rock’s traditional approach.

Average natural grade has been drawn from a B.C. Land Surveyor measurement of the grade at the midpoint of all four walls of a building footprint – prior to any construction or alteration of the site – from which an average measurement has been calculated.

“As most lots in the city have an existing building located on them, it is likely that some modification (or) landscaping of the yard in the setback area has occurred since the property was built on,” Isaak noted.

Isaak said practices in other Lower Mainland municipalities suggest other methods of measurement, however.

“If, alternative to this approach of using points inside the property lines, the measurement were tied to the corners or another point (or points) around the perimeter, or legal boundaries, of the property, the potential to manipulate grades to enable a taller building would be alleviated,” he said.

“Any such manipulation could affect the grading of a neighbouring property, resulting in a matter that could be resolved through civil proceedings.”

A motion to adopt the recommendation was passed unanimously.

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