White Rock council will have the chance to explore what the lower Regional Growth Strategy population projections mean for future development in the city, with a staff report expected in the weeks ahead.
City staff and council were surprised to learn last month that Metro Vancouver had cut White Rock’s projected population growth – subject of a much-debated letter to Peace Arch News from Mayor Wayne Baldwin in August – to 3,500 from 7,000 by 2040.
While Metro officials described the change as a “minor housekeeping amendment,” the city’s director of planning said it “has potential to have a big impact” on the city.
“It will certainly make our OCP (official community plan) review easier and more in line with the community expectations that we’re hearing,” Karen Cooper told council Sept. 14, following a presentation by Metro Vancouver.
Cooper pointed to a July report in which she wrote that the high projection figure would likely not be accommodated in the town centre area alone, however, she noted the new figure “certainly can be accommodated in the town centre.”
Cooper told PAN this week that the impact of the new numbers has not yet been felt in the OCP update process, and will “come into play” in a later phase, when planners begin determining land-use areas.
“I’m going to be reporting back to council on the implications of the regional growth strategy,” Cooper said, reiterating that the city will be able to meet the growth numbers in the town centre, currently zoned for high-density.
Not all of council was on board with limiting high-density growth to the town centre area, however. After hearing Cooper’s comments at the Sept. 14 meeting, Couns. Grant Meyer and Lynne Sinclair noted developments in other areas of the city and the possibility there would be more to come.
“We may have stuff along the North Bluff corridor and other small, in-fill subdivisions,” Meyer said, noting he had numerous comments from residents asking why the city isn’t focusing more on the town centre.
“You can’t force these people who own the property to develop.”
Sinclair pointed to the Royce and the Belaire as developments outside the town centre.
“There have been significant ones outside of the town centre that do come along, and they’re never easy decisions, but they do come forward,” she said. “I wouldn’t expect a report to say ‘because growth must happen in the town centre, we’re not going to consider them at all.’”
In the coming weeks, Cooper said, she expects to report on the results of an Oct. 8 OCP open house, which had more than 100 people in attendance, as well as a new online survey at www.talkwhiterock.ca
“This is an important part of getting their input… to set the direction for how the policies are going to be developed,” she said.