City takes closer look at tower plans

Design changes requested for three residential developments proposed for White Rock.

A capacity crowd packed White Rock council chambers July 21 for the Advisory Design Panel.

Three large-scale development projects proposed for White Rock have been sent back to the drawing board for revisions following a standing-room-only Advisory Design Panel meeting last week.

The meeting July 21 marked the first time members of council and the public were able to see the specific development applications, one of which has been the subject of debate and, more recently, a petition against it.

The proposed projects include a 12-storey, 36-unit residential development at 14825 and 14835 Thrift Ave.; a 12-storey, 17-unit residential development at Oxford Street and Thrift Avenue; and two towers (21 and 24 storeys) with 121 units at 1454 Oxford St.

The latter development is the subject of a 1,200-signature petition by neighbouring residents who oppose the project, saying it is out of character for the neighbourhood.

All three proposals would require Official Community Plan amendments and rezoning, but first will have to appear before the Advisory Design Panel for a second time, according to Karen Cooper, the city’s director of planning and development.

Proponents faced a number of questions and concerns throughout the three-hour review meeting, and were asked to make several adjustments to their applications before returning for a subsequent review.

Among issues the developers were asked to consider, for the 14825 Thrift Ave. project – proposed by Forge Properties Inc. – were relocation of the hydro lines underground, potential impacts and relationships with neighbouring developments, the complexity of the design, size and orientation of decks, more open space and an overall refinement of design.

The Thrift Avenue and Oxford Street project – proposed by MPW Projects Ltd. – was asked to reconsider having a smaller tower with the same density, accessibility, replacement of trees and geothermal energy potential.

The 1454 Oxford St. development – proposed by Elegant Developments on land currently owned by Epcor, the city’s water utility – faced concerns, including the location of the two towers, the possibility of other built forms (such as three smaller towers), tree retention and reduction of “massiveness” and accessibility.

Monday, Cooper highlighted the situation the city’s planning department faces with proposals requiring OCP amendments at a time when the OCP is already under review for an update.

Given that all three proposals were asked to make changes and return to the design panel, Cooper suggested the city continue with the process and assess in the fall whether revised applications fit the new OCP direction.

After discussion, council caused confusion amongst the packed gallery by voting to adopt Cooper’s recommendation. Unaware that a motion had been tabled, some viewers called out for clarification, however, none was given.

Coun. Grant Meyer confirmed to Peace Arch News Tuesday that he had “moved recommendation” at some point during discussion, however, review of the city’s online video stream could not determine when the motion was tabled, and phone calls to city staff for clarification were not returned by PAN deadline.

According to Cooper, the development applications in question will most likely return to the ADP in September, and will then go to the Land Use and Planning Committee, then to a public hearing, and finally to council for approval.

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