White Rock residents concerned about plans to build a waterfront parkade at Victoria Avenue and Vidal Street gave council an earful Monday, during a public hearing on the city’s new official community plan.
Packing council chambers to standing-room only, speakers denied locals would see any benefit from such a facility and accused council of keeping residents in the dark about it.
“What I have been able to ascertain is that never was the parkade ever a part of previous planning discussions around the OCP, so the people have never had a say in this matter,” charged Roger Bockstael, a Vidal Street resident. “So how did it end up in the OCP if it was never discussed and the taxpaying voters were never given an opportunity to speak to it?
“We are crying foul on this.”
Bockstael was among around 100 residents to fill council chambers for the hearing, which lasted three hours.
Scheduled as an opportunity for residents to provide feedback on the city’s proposed new official community plan, the majority of comments were directed at the parkade plan, which is identified in the OCP as a strategy to help reduce “surface” parking in the waterfront area.
The 170-page document specifically identifies “provision of a new facility at Victoria Avenue and Vidal Street” regarding managing parking supply and demand in the waterfront areas.
The proposed structure was the sole item discussed at the city’s land-use meeting, held just prior to the public hearing. At that meeting, officials with the city’s planning department presented a report on “what the proposed facility could look like.”
Director of planning and development services Carl Johannsen noted that such a facility “has been under consideration for some time.” According to a planning department report, a parkade study prepared for the city in July 2003 concluded that a multi-level parking facility should be built at Victoria and Vidal.
Peace Arch News reported in May 2012 that construction of a parkade was among more than two dozen suggestions proposed to address parking concerns – including a shortage of peak-season spots – on the waterfront.
Johannsen told the land-use committee Monday that there is a “solid rationale” for the city-driven proposal, which would be up to six storeys high and would add “300 or so” parking spaces.
Cost estimates range from $9.25 million for a four-storey structure to $13.015 million for a six-storey facility; the city has a budget of $9.1 million.
To proceed, it requires OCP and zoning amendments, as well as a development variance permit, for the four adjoining city-owned properties at Victoria and Vidal. The changes, if approved, would redesignate the properties as institutional and utility, and rezone the site for civic/institutional use.
If the proposed OCP is adopted, however, the requested OCP amendment would not be required, noted planning manager Carl Isaak.
Coun. Helen Fathers told staff she was “a little bit surprised” to see six storeys in the report.
“I always thought it was going to be three to four storeys,” she said, predicting the higher number “will create angst” among the public.
Fathers encouraged it be made clear the plan is for “up to” six storeys.
Coun. Lynne Sinclair expressed concern with a plan for the exit/entrance to be located off Vidal, where “it’s quite a bottleneck.”
Johannsen said more detail will come to council July 24.
Public hearing attendees were advised a couple of times that a public information meeting on the parkade plan is set for 5-7 p.m. Thursday (July 13) at the Centre for Active Living, 1475 Anderson St.
It didn’t quell their desire to make their concerns known. In addition to feeling they hadn’t been consulted, some said the parkade would encourage transients and nefarious behaviour.
Patrick Ferguson, whose residence looks east over the site, said he is concerned the area will “turn into a place of ill repute.”
“People tend to congregate and urinate in places that are vacant. I stare at a vacant parking lot nine months of the year,” Ferguson said.
Another speaker said the parkade would be “a grotesque and under-utilized facility.”
Attendees who spoke to other aspects of the OCP included Surrey resident Raghbir Gurn. Gurn – noting he had recently acquired six properties on Maple Street and Russell Avenue – expressed concern with the east-side transition zone. It drops to a floor-area ratio that permits up to three storeys from one that gives potential for 13 storeys.
“There is an unfairness there. A disparity has been created,” Gurn said.
Several expressed support for the plan, and encouraged council to increase density.