One roadblock to the City of White Rock’s long-awaited Centre Street Walkway redevelopment project has been cleared – but many others remain.
A BC Supreme Court decision, handed down on Dec. 30, has upheld a 2021 council resolution to proceed with the project.
But, as of last June, council had voted to put the project – which was to have been named in honour of late White Rock councillor Helen Fathers – on hold indefinitely, pending more information on a federal grant that might be accessed.
Contract tenders received by the city had essentially doubled the cost from the $1.49 million budgeted to more than $3 million in projected costs.
“As much as I think this council would like to see it started before we finish this term, I think we want to make sure that we see it done right and not trip all over ourselves for some photo opportunity,” Coun. David Chesney, a close friend of Fathers, said at the time.
In a case heard last August, owners of adjacent properties had attempted to stall the project – planned for a two-block grassy corridor of hillside with pedestrian walkway, located at the foot of Centre Street between Columbia Avenue and Marine Drive – with a petition to BC Supreme Court asking for a judicial review.
The owners, who have historically used portions of the city walkway property for vehicle access, parking and turnarounds, claimed in their petition that the resolution qualified as a municipal act, that it was unreasonable, and that it had denied them procedural fairness.
In his decision, Justice K. Michael Stephens found that despite adjoining property owners using parts of the walkway property for vehicle traffic, the city decision to redevelop the walkway did not amount to a decision to close a road.
The city had met its “duty of fairness,” he said, and petitioners had already participated in a consultation process when city plans to redevelop the walkway – which he referred to as ‘Unroaded Centre Street’ – were first outlined in 2014.
“The petitioners had notice (that) something was afoot with respect to a walkway improvement project on Unroaded Centre Street that could potentially impact them,” he noted in his judgment.
“I do not find there was any breach of procedural fairness to them when, after receiving that notice, they thereafter did not seek an opportunity to address Council prior to the resolution being made,” he said.
Stephens also noted, in providing factual background for the decision, that “as a result of the resolution, none of the petitioners’ properties will be landlocked.”
“Each property fronts a road that could provide access…” he added.