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White Rock council grants development permit to two-tower Oxford Street project

Plans for 121-unit development locked in by 2017 decisions
Artist’s rendering of a two-tower, 121-unit, multi-family residential building planned for Oxford Street. On Monday night, council granted a development permit for the project, noting they were essentially locked in to doing so by actions of the previous council. (Contributed image)

White Rock council has approved a staff recommendation to grant a development permit for a major two-tower, 121-unit, multi-family residential building on Oxford Street – despite the majority of councillors being opposed to it.

In discussions in at the Land Use and Planning Committee meeting on Monday (July 26 ) – and reiterated at the regular council meeting later in the evening – council members agreed that they were essentially locked in to granting the development permit by actions of the previous council.

As planning manager Greg Newman summarized, the proposal – for 1454 Oxford St., just south of the Evergreen Campus of Care and west of White Rock’s water utility plant on Goggs Avenue – has already received public hearings, plus an OCP amendment, rezoning and a phased development agreement (PDA), passed in June of 2017, before the present council was elected.

Under the PDA, the city has received a 0.92-acre parcel of wooded land to the east of the site, which will help preserve the existing character of the Everall neighbourhood, and also a $3.6 million amenity contribution from the developer.

But Newman noted the city’s customary ability to vary siting, size and dimensions or uses of a building through a development permit are “frozen” for a 10-year period by the existence of the PDA.

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The “grandfathered” development plans, which appear to satisfy all other city requirements, include 21- and 24-storey towers with a shared two-storey podium and three-storey parkade.

Land Use and Planning Committee chair Anthony Manning summed up the mixed feelings of current council members.

“If this was coming before the committee for the first time I would not be supporting it because it is too dense and too far out of the town centre (and) I know our residents are generally not in favour of this tall of a building at that location,” he said. “

“However, it’s time to issue the development permit… and any attempt to try to stop that now is just going to incur unnecessary legal expense that our residents will ultimately pay for.”

“I feel that our hands are tied in this,” said Coun. Scott Kristjanson, who cast the sole opposing votes to the permit in both the committee and regular council.

“But I represent the residents, so I don’t think I can support this staff recommendation.”

Coun. Christopher Trevelyan echoed Kristjanson’s comments that the proposed development is “a beautiful building, but in the wrong place,” but said he would be supporting it because it is incumbent on council members to uphold binding provisions of the Local Government Act.

Coun. Helen Fathers called it a “very complex decision.”

‘This is an especially difficult decision for those members of council who were on the previous council – myself and Coun. Chesney – neither of us supported the development, but…we have to be steadfast in the law,” Fathers said.

“The law is on the side of the developer in this set of circumstances.”

“We’re at the position now where it’s beyond the 11th hour,” Chesney observed, noting that all that council can do is work with developer to “make this a beautiful development.”

While approving the development permit, council also approved two related recommendations from the Land Use and Planning Committee, originally suggested by Manning, and based on environmental concerns.

One is that, prior to granting a building permit, council obtain an update to a previous report on how construction on the site might impact White Rock’s natural aquifer.

The other is that White Rock establish a task force, with Surrey and other neighbouring municipalities, to study the effects of impending construction in the region on the aquifer.

Both recommendations were passed unanimously by council.

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