Opposition continues to dominate tower talks

White Rock developer hosts public-information meeting on proposed Thrift Avenue highrise.

White Rock city planner Eric Shaw discusses highrise plans with residents at a recent public information meeting.

Anti-highrise sentiment was once again on display in White Rock last week at a public-information meeting hosted by proponents of a 12-storey development proposed for Thrift Avenue.

A petition calling for the city to vote against any highrise development applications was circulated among the crowd of about 30 attendees, while city staff were peppered with questions about how the proposed development – at 14825 and 14835 Thrift Ave. – would fit into the city’s Official Community Plan, currently under review.

Resident Carol Blacklaws, discussing the city’s review of the OCP with staffer Eric Shaw,  said she was frustrated at the lack of vision she has witnessed among staff and council, and the helplessness residents feel in the face of the unfinished OCP.

“We have these amazing, passionate people who feel very strongly about creating a livable city, and they’re being confounded, because there isn’t a vision,” Blacklaws said.

The development in question at the meeting – held Aug. 20 at the White Rock Community Centre – is for a 12-storey, 36-unit residential building, applied for by Forge Properties Inc.

Cory Saran, principal at Forge, told Peace Arch News that he and his colleagues are aware of the “stigma” of highrises in White Rock, but hopes to win over those in doubt with an “inspiring design” he said will help meet a need for residents looking to downsize.

“When folks have an opportunity to understand our design rationale, I think it starts to make sense, the reasoning behind it,” he said.

The development was one of several to come before the city’s advisory design panel last month, at which time Forge was asked to consider a number of issues highlighted by the panel.

Saran said plans for the highrise are “continually being refined” as the application makes its way through the public-consultation process.

For White Rock resident Glen Gerow, the plan doesn’t pose a problem, however, the location of the proposal – two blocks west of the designated town centre boundary – does.

Gerow said he understands why the city would want to bolster the town centre’s business community by increasing density in the area, but that highrises outside of the boundaries won’t help the struggling businesses surrounding Johnston Road.

“I don’t think complexes like this one are close enough walking distance that they’re going to help towards achieving that objective,” Gerow said, noting the city shouldn’t be moving forward with development proposals until the OCP review is completed.

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