White Rock council has voted to move forward a proposal for a five-storey residential and commercial project for the southeast corner of North Bluff Road and Nichol Road – following a public hearing in which many nearby residents said they feared the impact of the development on their neighbourhood.
The Texor Homes project would provide 51 residential units and commercial space, with underground parking for 107 vehicles, at 14022/34 North Bluff Rd. and 1590 Nichol Rd. – site of the former Skyline Market and two adjacent single-family homes.
The original proposal for the site, in 2015, was for a 15-storey residential highrise that was vehemently opposed by residents, and a subsequent eight-storey revision also found little favour with either residents or council members.
But at Monday night’s regular meeting, immediately after the close to two-hour public hearing, council gave third reading to the official-community-plan and zoning amendments necessary for the revised project to proceed.
In essence, this is a green light for the development as it is rare for a project to be turned down at fourth and final reading.
Sole voice in opposition was Mayor Wayne Baldwin, who said that although “there was much to like about the proposal… a good building in look and design,” he would not support it because it was being submitted in advance of completion of the city’s OCP review.
“It is ahead of the OCP,” he said. “I do not like the idea of a developer setting (what that will be). I don’t want the OCP completed by a developer.”
Coun. Lynne Sinclair said that while she recognized that people in the immediate area feel threatened by the development, and while she was not entirely convinced by traffic studies commissioned by the developer, she couldn’t see anything else that would be built in that area that would preserve its “walkability.”
“This is the right thing for that corner – it will actually protect it (as a) buffer against a four-lane highway.”
Coun. Grant Meyer said that while he understood there were fears it would presage similar development “up and down North Bluff,” he felt “this corner is a one-off.”
Coun. Helen Fathers said she believes the development would be “something the neighbourhood will be proud of,” while Couns. Megan Knight and Bill Lawrence, speaking in favour of the design and the land use, both made a point of saying they hoped the developer would abide by promises that the project would provide lower-priced affordable units for first-time buyers and those downsizing.
The possibility of affordable housing among the range of unit sizes in the plan was advanced as one of the major benefits of the project by those who spoke in favour of it at the hearing.
Council heard from potential buyers and real-estate sales people who said they saw the project as an opportunity to be able to buy into the White Rock market at an affordable price.
Texor vice-president Howard Steiss said that in addition to providing a range of units including affordable options, the building would be constructed to environmentally friendly and sustainable principles, and would also provide storage space for scooters and plug-ins for electric and hybrid vehicles.
But others said it was a good-looking building in the wrong place, and that adding vehicles for 51 residents and patrons of the commercial units to a busy intersection already posted as high risk for traffic accidents would be a recipe for disaster.
Blackburn Avenue resident Andrew Schultz said that he objected to the project as another exception to the existing OCP, in “blatant disregard of the wishes of the community.”
“The new OCP will be ignored whenever it proves inconvenient,” he predicted.
North Bluff resident Stuart Libby said there was no clear indication of how affordable the units would be, and he questioned the burden 51 new residences would place on area schools and infrastructure, such as the city water system.
“I do hope new residents like water that tastes like chlorine and looks like the Fraser River when you want to take a bath,” he said.
Former White Rock BIA executive director Douglas Smith, who spoke in favour of the project and Texor’s “reputation for quality homes,” said it is unlikely that anything else would be built on the property that would fit suggestions of duplexes, townhouses or single-family homes raised by immediate neighbours.
“The mathematics wouldn’t work – the only way it would work is for (a plan like this). Nobody is going to buy those lots to build single-family homes. The project sets the bar for future projects along the corridor.
“The project is leading-edge and cutting-edge. Developers like this don’t come along every day. If they walk away, be careful of what you’re looking for.”
A final vote is expected in the new year.