Only a few hours before it was scheduled to take place, the public hearing for a contentious White Rock development proposal was deferred – “until further notice.”
The hearing, on bylaws for the twin residential-tower Elegant development at 1454 Oxford St. – in the Everall neighbourhood of the city’s west side – was to have started at 5:30 p.m. Monday (Oct. 17) at White Rock Community Centre.
Instead, it has been put on hold at least until the end of November, following legal advice received by the city.
The hearing has already been postponed once, along with the hearing for the equally contentious Forge Properties highrise development proposal in the same neighbourhood, previously deferred due to a scheduling conflict with the proponents and yet to be rescheduled.
A handful of residents and other interested parties who arrived at the centre for the Elegant hearing were greeted by printed notices and apologies from city staff members, including city clerk Tracey Arthur, planning manager Carl Isaak and Kurt Alberts, acting director of planning and development services.
But it appeared that many other potential participants had already learned of the deferment online through website postings – including at www.peacearchnews.com – or emailed exchanges.
A notice posted on the city website Monday afternoon apologized “for the inconvenience,” but offered no explanation for the deferment.
However, city administrator Dan Bottrill told Peace Arch News late Monday afternoon that he had “made the difficult decision” to defer the meeting that morning after receiving some legal advice that – under Section 475 of the Local Government Act – public consultation on the project had not been “sufficiently documented.”
“We had supplied all the paperwork,” he said, “but (I decided) we could do more to improve it.
“The real issue is that we really wanted the public hearing to stick to the merits of the application,” he added, rather than being “distracted by procedural issues.”
Bottrill would not elaborate on what could have been improved in the documentation, but said that a corporate report on the process will be submitted to council at a Nov. 7 meeting.
He said it is likely the public hearing will be rescheduled “towards the end of November.”
City communications manager Farnaz Farrokhi said members of the public who had emailed correspondence on the hearing had been emailed back to inform them of the deferment.
Bottrill noted that notices had also been posted on the doors of city hall.
The hearings would have concerned a change in official community plan designation from multi-unit residential – low density to multi-unit residential – high density, rezoning from civic/institutional use to comprehensive development zone, and a phased development agreement to secure a community amenity contribution and regulate construction.
Opponents of the proposal, for two buildings, 24 and 21 storeys high – providing a total of 121 residential units – argue that it is out of keeping with the character of the neighbourhood, that it will tax existing infrastructure, that it poses an environmental risk to the White Rock aquifer and is too close to existing city water wells on Oxford Street.
Questions have also been raised by a number of residents about a contingency of rezoning of the property being a condition of sale of some of the land (formerly property of the Epcor water utility) to Elegant, and also about contributions the developer made to campaigns of some city council members in the 2014 municipal election.