Architect Mark Ankenman said it may have been “a misunderstanding” when he referred last week to city documents used in the planning process for the ill-fated Forge Properties highrise proposal as part of the White Rock’s draft official community plan.
But he stands by his statements at the public hearing that city planning staff encouraged himself and Forge principal Cory Saran to move away from their original six-storey wood frame design for the property, at 14825-35 Thrift Ave., in favour of a 12-storey tower.
And he says that he and Saran were “quite shocked” when the enabling bylaws for the project died without a seconder at Monday’s meeting of council.
“We were gobsmacked at the rationale that we’d get turned down and the Elegant proposal would get approved,” he said.
(The Elegant proposal, for a 24-storey tower and a 21-storey tower in a phased development, was approved for the nearby property at 1454 Oxford St. – part of the same Everall neighborhood.)
In comments after the motion for discussion failed, Mayor Wayne Baldwin said Forge’s 66 units-per-acre density was “pushing the envelope” too much for the neighborhood.
“We were not aware that this was an issue,” said Ankenman, who described the sparsely public hearing as a “non-event” attended by the “usual council watchdogs we hear from all the time” and that comments in opposition had not focused on the merits of the proposal itself.
Ankenman said he and Forge had spent a great deal of “time and energy” addressing issues of siting the building to respect sightlines for the neighbours – including the adjacent Forge development, The Royce, and modifying the design to fit advisory design panel wants.
“We thought we were doing what we were supposed to do,” he said.
Ankenman dropped something of a bombshell at the public hearing when he said that the property area was shown as high density in the “draft OCP.”
Opponents seized on this, saying it indicated preferential treatment for the developer, which Baldwin denied, saying “we (council) haven’t even seen the draft OCP yet.”
Ankenman agreed Thursday that what he was referring to was a draft OCP amendment for the neighbourhood including the Forge, Elegant and Evanish projects, presented to the city’s land use and planning committee on Nov. 23, 2015 by former planning and development services director Karen Cooper.
“At that time, she was quite concerned about getting the three projects rolling along as a catalyst for the OCP,” he said. “It’s semantics, perhaps, because there isn’t a draft OCP yet – but that’s what she called it, the draft OCP. We were encouraged by earlier (planning staff) – not this staff – to proceed down this path.”
Ankenman said it’s uncertain, at this point, what Forge’s next step will be for the property.
‘We did what we thought was an appropriate solution, given the parameters we had. We thought we had a win-win, something that was good for the city, good for the neighbours, good for the community.
‘When I see something going sideways in the planning process, I lay down my pencil. I tell (planning) I’m not interested in a crap-shoot, I’m interested in a win-win.
“I think we just have to hunker down and wait,” he said.
“It’s too confusing a climate right now to jump back in and ask ‘what do you want?’ We have no idea what that is.”