White Rock Coun. Grant Meyer says it now appears that developing a parking facility behind the Boathouse Restaurant – rather than pursuing a waterfront facility on Marine Drive’s ‘hump’ – is the best option for solving the area’s parking shortage.
That will come as news to some council watchers who have wondered about the extent to which Meyer has been advocating behind the scenes for such development on the ‘hump’ – where a virtual clearcut of vegetation in May 2015 has remained a sore spot with some.
Only last December, Meyer approached Peace Arch News to suggest it was time to dust off a 12-year-old proposal for parking and a public plaza on that section of the hillside just east of the pier.
The following month, city staff were costing out the options of leasing space on the site from BNSF Railway – to the expressed surprise of some council members, including Coun. David Chesney and Mayor Wayne Baldwin, both of whom told PAN they had not been part of any council discussion on the matter. City manager Dan Bottrill responded at that time that his request for a price was made only to anticipate potential council questions.
But documents obtained by PAN indicate revisiting the 2003 parking proposal has been on Meyer’s mind at least since contractors began clearing the hillside.
A May 21, 2015 memo from Levelton Consultants Ltd. to the City of White Rock mentions a meeting with Meyer during a site visit eight days earlier to assess slope stability following the first phase of tree and vegetation clearing.
“The councillor indicated that the city may potentially utilize the cleared slope area west of the Marine Drive hump for additional city parking space,” the message stated. “The construction of the parking area will require geotechnical engineering services including design of retaining walls…
“Levelton to follow up with the councillor to further discuss the feasibility of the proposed retaining wall/parking lot expansion.”
A subsequent email from city staff, however, asked Levelton to revise the memo to “remove any mention of our discussion with Coun. Meyer and possible parking off Marine… this project is not approved and has not been discussed in council.”
In response to a reporter’s questions last week, Meyer at first said he did not remember a conversation with city-retained consultants about potential parking on the ‘hump’. However, when told of the memo, Meyer he said he only vaguely recalled any discussion, which, he said, occurred during a chance meeting during the consultants’ visit.
“I remember walking along the beach and seeing staff and talking with the people with them,” he said, adding he believes he referred to the 2003 plan during the conversation. “It was not a set-up meeting.”
Meyer said he has not made any secret of the fact that he favours redevelopment of the ‘hump’ for parking purposes.
“I’ve always said we needed a ‘hump’ option,” he said, noting he does not see the area – a “space full of invasive species” – as worthy of preservation.
While council has not specifically discussed a new plan for the ‘hump’, he said, it has talked about providing parking being a priority.
“For any big increase, it would have to be somewhere on the ‘hump’ or behind the Boathouse.”
Meyer noted it now seems likely that the concept of parking on the ‘hump’ will be held in abeyance while the city continues to pursue relocating the railway line off the waterfront. He said this would also allow the creation of a linear park.
A discussion with council members and transportation minister Todd Stone – following a meeting at the Union of B.C. Municipalities – has indicated there may be some impetus toward negotiating relocation of the BNSF line, with the possibility of provincial funding for preliminary work, Meyer said.
In the context of that potential for developing a “linear waterfront sea walk,” Meyer said, it makes sense to adopt a “wait-and-see”’ approach to the ‘hump’.
“My personal preference is to use the parking space behind the Boathouse. I think, right now, that’s the preferred option,” he said, noting he likes the idea of a public-private partnership.
“It could be something like two levels of parking with condos above.”