White Rock councillors concerned after work done without consent

Approving a variance when the application was made after the fact "sends the wrong message,” councillors say.

An application to replace a retaining wall with a suspended staircase did not sit well with White Rock council members who were unimpressed the work went ahead before the request was dealt with.

“I don’t entirely agree with the way it’s been presented,” Coun. Helen Fathers said in discussing the variance sought for 14884 Hardie Ave. at the June 24 council meeting.

“I don’t think it’s the right way to do things.”

But while council ultimately quashed the variance that night on a tie vote, a motion by Coun. Larry Robinson – who was absent from the June 24 meeting – to reconsider the application heard July 15 reversed the decision.

“I would’ve voted in favour of this variance,” Robinson told council, in explaining his motion.

According to a staff report, the proponents requested a development variance permit in order to reduce the west side-yard setback from 1.5 metres to 0.457 m to accommodate the change.

The original plans called for a retaining wall that would raise the ground level to enable stairs to sit on grade along the side of the house.

During construction, the owners decided to cantilever the stairs off the side of the house instead – a move that reduces the impact on the adjacent property by allowing more light in, writes Paul Stanton, the city’s director of development services.

Noting the retaining wall was not necessary to the structural integrity of the house itself, Stanton recommended council approve the variance.

At a June 24 public hearing, one person spoke in favour of the variance, and one spoke against it.

At the council meeting that same night, it was defeated, with Fathers and Couns. Al Campbell and Bill Lawrence opposed, and Mayor Wayne Baldwin and Couns. Grant Meyer and Louise Hutchinson in favour.

The application came to council because the board of variance – in place to adjudicate appeals for minor variances to zoning bylaws – was “not able to come to a consensus whether there was hardship in this case,” Stanton told council during a May land-use meeting.

The plans were changed “on the fly,” he added, and the stair structure would have to be removed if the application is rejected.

Campbell first voiced his own concerns at that same meeting, suggesting there was never any intention to build the retaining wall.

“I don’t know how this got this far,” he said.

“To go together with your neighbour and in a very cavalier fashion delete a retaining wall… I discourage something like that.”

June 24, he reiterated his concerns.

“Obviously, it was designed (with a retaining wall), and I’m wondering why it wasn’t built,” Campbell said.

“It says you need a wall – you need a wall.”

July 15, Fathers said approving the variance “sends the wrong message.” She and Campbell again voted against the move, but were defeated.

 

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