An error in calculating gross floor area for the zoning bylaw for the White Rock Muffler site proposal would permit developers a higher maximum floor area than even they were seeking.
But while city planning and development services director Paul Stanton said the error is known – and fixable before the bylaw becomes law – neighbourhood opponents of the scheme see the mistake as yet another troubling misstep in the process for the contentious proposal.
“It’s mind-numbing that this could happen for such a huge piece of property and a development this important,” said area resident Cindy McMullen.
Opponents are urging residents to sign petitions against the zoning amendment, Bylaw 2001, which goes to public hearing at the White Rock Community Centre Monday (Feb. 25) at 7 p.m.
The petitioners argue an initial bylaw for redevelopment of the site, Bylaw 1946, was passed in 2011 with assurances from developer architect Tim Ankenman that “proponents would not come back after the fact asking to build higher.”
But when the property was sold to Richmond-based LLW Holdings Ltd. in 2012 it came back to council, still represented by Ankenman-Marchand, with requests to build higher and for several thousand square feet more in floor area, neither of which, opponents say, were mentioned at a Nov. 14 public information meeting.
The development, originally proposed as a blend of apartments, townhouses and ground-floor commercial units, includes two buildings that area residents now fear could completely block many views.
For one building, which fronts Marine Drive up to Oxford Street, the developers are requesting an additional two feet in height, which would allow them to build up to four storeys, rather than the three originally approved for the site.
For the other, fronting along Buena Vista Avenue and Oxford Street, the developers are requesting an additional 1.5 feet in height, citing city errors in calculating the floodplain in the original bylaw.
In the most recent error, Stanton acknowledged, city staff had “double-counted” the commercial floor area, inadvertently raising the maximum gross floor area in the bylaw to 89,815 sq.-ft. from 82,464 sq.-ft., and the maximum gross floor area for residential uses to 82,464 sq.-ft. from 75,113 sq.-ft.
After the discrepancy was raised by resident Hollie Whitehead, Stanton said, the city went back to the applicants to see where it had come in, only to discover it was a city error.
“The applicant is fully aware of the mistake,” he said.
“It wasn’t what they were asking for.”
Council has been notified of the mistake, he said, and, under the Local Government Act could correct the wording of the bylaw to reduce density before it came back for third reading, without requiring further notice or public hearings.
While the error can’t be changed in time for the public hearing, Stanton said it’s his advice that noting it at the meeting would be “appropriate.”
“Council will listen to concerns (on the bylaw) and decide whether to reject it or amend it,” he said. “They still have the option of making an amendment for third reading.”
“I guess they’re going to try to take care of it,” said opponent Bob Berger.
“But so many mistakes have been made… This is a series of incredible faux pas and the neighbourhood and the community and the people who live here are hurting as a result.”
Berger, who has argued in the past for a need for greater transparency in the city’s handling of the proposal, said he is not a foe of development per se.
“I have no problem with developers making money or real estate agents making money,” he said.
“I do have a problem with that big a development coming in at the expense of the community.”