City of White Rock releases legal opinion on mayor’s letter

Mayor Wayne Baldwin says document supports his position that the city is required by law to plan according to regional estimates

White Rock Mayor Wayne Baldwin received council permission to release a legal opinion on his statements that the city is obligated by law to plan according to regional growth estimates.

More than a year after it sparked a storm of public controversy, Mayor Wayne Baldwin is adamant in his view that the city is “required by provincial law” to plan housing according to population projections in Metro Vancouver’s Regional Growth Strategy (RGS).

A legal opinion provided to the City of White Rock last year – and released last month to Peace Arch News – is cited by Baldwin as supporting his stance, originally expressed in a letter to the editor in August 2015.

Baldwin said he urged council in-camera last year to release the legal opinion publicly but was overruled. He said he succeeded a year later.

Coun. Lynne Sinclair told PAN Thursday that while it is generally policy for the city not to share legal opinions it receives, council recognized that “the mayor really wanted to share it, in light of all the controversy around the RGS.”

“We said if you really want to do that, we’ll release it,” she said.

She added she could not comment on the opinion, as she had seen it only once during the closed meeting in which it was originally discussed.

When published, Baldwin’s letter was seized on by critics who saw it as a justification of a perceived bias by the mayor – and other members of council – for pushing forward high-density development outside current Official Community Plan boundaries.

But the opinion, delivered by lawyer Don Lidstone on Oct. 1, 2015, states “we do not think the mayor’s letter was misleading the public.”

Lidston e goes on to state that, under the Local Government Act, it’s mandatory that an OCP include “the approximate location, amount, type and density of residential development required to meet anticipated housing needs over a period of at least five years.”

He adds that, under the act, a city’s Regional Context Statement (RCS) must explain how the plan relates to the growth strategy and that it’s also mandatory for the city to identify how the RCS is to be “made consistent” with the strategy “over time.”

The opinion, however, stops short of saying that the RGS projections themselves are legally binding – adding that there are varying opinions on whether an OCP that did not fall in line with growth projections would be subject to “court attack.”

“The courts have shown considerable deference to municipalities in determining when there is an inconsistency,” Lidstone says. “Some cases have even referred to a requirement for an ‘absolute and direct collision’ – a test very beneficial to municipalities.”

Baldwin has not responded to requests for further comment on the legal opinion, saying only, through city communications manager Farnaz Farrokhi, that “it speaks for itself.”

Metro Vancouver representatives have been equally adamant, however, that RGS projections are only guidelines, and not legally binding.

“Projections are not targets,” Heather McNell, divisional manager of growth management for Metro Vancouver confirmed to PAN in an interview last month.

“They are not legally binding,” she said, adding that estimates are provided to member municipalities as part of an ongoing process of aligning OCPs with the growth strategy that requires both council and Metro Vancouver board approvals.

“They are provided for information to help (municipalities) plan,” she said. “There is lots of room in the LGA to interpret (projections) and what a council will do with them.”

Baldwin’s original letter to PAN cited regional growth estimates as adding 7,000 to White Rock’s population (currently at just under 20,000) by 2041 – requiring some 4,000 new dwellings to be built in the city.

While earlier that summer the region had halved its estimate for White Rock’s population growth, Baldwin told PAN that was not known at the time.

McNell said the city’s current OCP – which is under review – is “fully aligned” with the RGS.

A petition calling for Baldwin’s resignation was submitted to the city on Oct. 5, 2015.

city hall protest

“We believe that Wayne Baldwin attempted to have the public believe this incorrect statement to attempt to numb the public to the many non OCP- compliant development proposals that he and the coalition have endorsed,” it stated.

Baldwin responded at that time that the petition had “no basis in fact” and that he had “absolutely no reason to resign.”

In his letter to PAN, Baldwin noted that “the RGS requirements were approved by a previous council in March 2011, and incorporated into the RGS when it was approved by the Metro Board in July 2011.

“This is the law and we must follow it, and the numbers must be incorporated into the amended OCP (Official Community Plan),” Baldwin wrote.

Last month, Baldwin told PAN he believed, from the time the projections were approved in 2011, that they were too high and needed to be adjusted downwards.



Legal Opinion-City of White Rock-growth Strategy by PAN editor on Scribd

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Peace Portal Alliance Church, at the corner of King George Boulevard and 152 Street, is the extreme-weather shelter for South Surrey for the upcoming season. It is to have 14 mats available nightly for those experiencing homelessness, regardless of weather conditions. (Tracy Holmes photo)
14 beds planned for South Surrey extreme-weather shelter

Webinar tonight to field questions, share info on Peace Portal Alliance Church refuge

White Rock Whalers president Ronnie Paterson (inset photo) is hopeful the team and City of White Rock will be able to find a solution that will allow the Whalers and their PJHL opponents to use the dressing rooms at Centennial Arena. (Jody Harris photo)
Whalers waiting to hear on dressing-room availability as PJHL home-opener looms

White Rock team owner ‘confident’ hurdles can be overcome in talks with city

Fraser Health declared an outbreak of COVID-19 at Delta Hospital on Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2020. (Grace Kennedy photo)
Outbreak over at Delta Hospital

In all, 45 cases of COVID-19 were identified and seven patients died during the outbreak

The Sunshine Band Club video posted to Youtube.
VIDEO: Surrey youth band shines light on ‘COVID blues,’ raises money for hospital

Virtual concert from Sunshine Band Club, established last March

Not everybody lined up to vote on Saturday. In Surrey, 68,396 mail-in ballots still need to be counted for the final election tally. (Black Press Media)
North Surrey voters steer left, South Surrey voters steer right

Once again, it’s NDP orange in the city’s north end, Liberal red in the south

FILE – Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry provides the latest update on the COVID-19 pandemic in the province during a press conference in the press theatre at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Thursday, October 22, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. shatters COVID-19 records with 817 weekend cases; masks now expected indoors

Three people have died over the past three reporting periods

Graphic on promo material for Best Buy Canada’s Tech Wonderland event.
Drive-through ‘Tech Wonderland’ coming to PNE site a few weeks before Christmas

Best Buy Canada-backed ‘holiday’ event to raise money for charity

Aaliyah Rosa. File photo
Crown says murder of seven-year-old in Langley was planned, deliberate

The trial of KerryAnn Lewis began Monday in New Westminster

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

B.C. Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry. (B.C. government photo)
Unnamed school in Fraser Health region closed due to COVID-19

Closure announced by Dr. Bonnie Henry during daily briefing

RCMP have released more details regarding what led up to an arrest caught on video in Williams Lake Sunday, Oct. 26. (Facebook video screenshot)
Review launched after ‘high-risk, multi-jurisdictional’ chase, arrest in Williams Lake

RCMP launching a full review and code of conduct investigation

B.C. limits events in private homes to household, plus ‘safe six’ amid COVID-19 surge

Henry issued a public health order limiting private gatherings to one household, plus a group of ‘safe six’ only

Most Read