White Rock council will have to weigh the cost of preserving part of the city’s history.
At its Sept. 28 meeting, council passed along a plea for heritage protection for buildings on Elm Street and Beachview Avenue – and opposition to a development proposal there – to the city’s History and Heritage Advisory Committee.
The committee, scheduled to resume meeting in November, will be asked to work with the city planning department to develop a policy for the neighbourhood.
But Coun. David Chesney warned the resident presenting the petition that the price of protecting the character of the waterfront section of houses – one of the few remaining enclaves of pioneer-era homes in White Rock – would be steep.
Chesney said that, when last evaluated for the previous council, the cost of compensating the owners for the redevelopment potential of the properties had been placed at more than $5 million.
Council unanimously endorsed Coun. Anthony Manning’s motion to forward the matter to the committee, however.
Neighbourhood resident Anita Neilson had appeared before council electronically to present a 420-signature petition submitted earlier in September by “a group of concerned residents.”
The signers – opposing Development Proposal 20-009 – are also asking that a process for a heritage designation be initiated.
“As you know, Elm Street is a lovely and historic residential street located in the busy West Beach community off Marine Drive,” she said.
The corner of Elm Street and Beachview Avenue, Neilson said, is the site of a “lovely 1930s two-storey four-plex building, built into the natural grade,” she said.
Development proponents, however, wish to rezone the property as multipurpose, for a four-storey, 21-unit complex, with two additional storeys that will be required for 31 underground parking spaces, Neilson said, “and many of those will have to be above grade.”
The 21-units are going to increase the population density “immensely,” she said. “We’re going to go from a minimum, I suppose, of 21 people living in the building up to as many as 50 or more people, depending on family size,” she added.
“This is going to lead to a lot of parking congestion – I’m not sure how all of those cars are planning to travel up Elm and across Beachview to get into the parking garage. That’s also going to lead to increased pollution and increased noise.”
Neilson said residents are concerned that this is going to impact property values, primarily through loss of ocean views for numerous properties, as well as a loss of sun exposure and privacy as a result of the proposal.
“While the developer has assured us that the three majestic elm trees are to remain, it’s very difficult to believe that the roots are not going to be destroyed in the construction, particularly as they’re building the underground parking,” she said.
Neilson noted that in the current Official Community Plan, this block of Elm Street is part of the ‘waterfront village’ designation.
“One of things that we’re hoping is, during the review of the OCP, is that this block can be correctly designated as a residential area and receive appropriate zoning,” she said.
“We would like to have the city consider a heritage designation for Elm Street, or, specifically, for the four heritage homes that remain and perhaps in addition 1164 Elm Street, which is the property in question.”
Neilson said that Elm Street deserves preservation as one of White Rock’s oldest streetscapes. Attesting to its importance in the history of the city is the fact that an early 1900s photograph of the street is on display both in the window of White Rock Museum and Archives, and on a plaque on the promenade.
Planning and development director Carl Isaak told council that, at present, the only landmarks in the city that have a heritage designation are the ‘white rock,’ White Rock Museum and Archives (the former Great Northern station) and the pier.
He said that while there are provisions in the Local Government Act, and also processes under provincial regulations, for the unilateral designation of buildings or landmarks as heritage – which would significantly limit development potential – the provisions also mandate a negotiation of compensation with property owners.
Chesney commented that the price for that would be “very large” for the city.
“The previous council was asked to designate (these) homes heritage, and the price-tag associated with it, I believe, was over $5 million,” he said.
“Not that that’s a reason not to take a look at it, but it has been on the table before and, at least, the previous council thought that was a very expensive expenditure.”
Chesney said that, because the houses are not able to be rezoned for commercial purposes, “all the city could retrieve from taking them into the inventory would be rent.”
Coun. Scott Kristjanson said, however, that he was very supportive of council adopting a policy on heritage homes.
“We have some beautiful homes, not only in this neighbourhood, but also in other areas of the city,” he said. “We need a policy that describes how we make that happen.”