Stacey Wilson photo                                 White Rock council initiated a rethink on building heights south of Thrift Avenue Wednesday, where 12-storey buildings had been approved.

Stacey Wilson photo White Rock council initiated a rethink on building heights south of Thrift Avenue Wednesday, where 12-storey buildings had been approved.

White Rock ‘hits pause button’ on highrises

Council scrutinizes Lower Johnston Road projects that already received development permits

White Rock’s newly-elected council took aim at two previously approved Lower Johnston Road highrise projects in a special public meeting Wednesday night.

In a meeting that packed council chambers two days after their inauguration, Mayor Darryl Walker and councillors approved a resolution put forward by Walker to amend the Official Community Plan for the Lower Town Centre that would, in effect, create a temporary “study area” of the neighbourhood by reducing maximum building height to four to six storeys.

Council also adopted resolutions from Walker proposing changes to the zoning bylaw that would limit height and density for both the Solterra at 1350 Johnston Rd. and the Lady Alexandra at 1310 Johnston Rd. – a measure suggested by planning and development services director Carl Johannsen and chief administrative officer Dan Bottrill as a means of what Bottrill termed “hitting the pause button” on the projects.

The measure addressing the Lower Johnston Road projects – permitted under Section 463 of the provincial Local Government Act – can be invoked because, while both projects have received a development permit, neither developer has applied for a building permit.

Under the resolutions – which were the subject of debate by council members who disagreed over specific numbers – each property would be limited to a maximum height of six storeys and a density-determining floor area ratio of 3.5, down from 12 storeys and a ratio of 4.8.

Council also approved preparation of a corporate report on options for conducting a citywide review of the Official Community Plan and related consideration of the city’s Regional Context Statement, which Bottrill assured them could be provided by the next regular council meeting, scheduled for Nov. 19.

Bottrill explained that, if building permits are applied for, the city would have 60 days, which could be extended to a maximum of 90 days, to complete study of the two projects.

“As soon as the building permit is applied for, the clock starts ticking,” Bottrill said. He also noted that council would “not be fettered” by any numbers of storeys or floor-area ratios selected for study purposes.

Also approved by council as part of the process of re-examining the projects, is an extensive corporate report including current and proposed zoning, “identification of the interests of the community as a whole,” discussion of esthetic values and protecting the unique character of the neighbourhood, but also a process of consultation with affected property owners to ensure “scrupulous fairness in procedure.”

The two projects are among three in the city – identified in a summary of 14 current major projects by Johannsen earlier in the evening – that are without building permits. The third, the Verve at 1456 Johnston Rd., falls within town centre zoning that already permits highrises.

But Solterra, approved by the previous council at a height of 12 storeys last year, and Lady Alexandra, granted a development permit at 12 storeys in June, are in an OCP area deemed a transitional zone between buildings of up to 23 storeys in the uptown area down to a maximum of four storeys at Five Corners.

They also flank the Blue Frog Studios recording and performance venue at 1328 Johnston Rd.

Prior to the approval of the Lady Alexandra development in June, Blue Frog owner Kelly Breaks had pleaded with council for time for experts to study measures for abating noise and construction vibration, claiming the approval would “put an existing business at risk.”

In response to questions from councillors about whether the viability of Blue Frog Studios would be compromised by the projects, Johannsen said the city plans to bring forward a “good neighbour policy” governing construction in the city.

“I don’t think anyone wants to have construction threaten the viability of that cultural centre,” he said.

Before council approved the height limit of six storeys on a split 5-2 vote – Couns. Erika Johanson and Anthony Manning voted against – Coun. Helen Fathers had moved a height limit of eight storeys for the Lady Alexandra property “in the interests of moving this forward” but received no seconder to the motion.

She had argued that the Lower Johnston projects were essentially “good projects (but) a little bit too high.”

“I wouldn’t want to see these projects decimated so that they went under,” she said.

Following the meeting, Walker acknowledged that the discussion had provoked disagreement among his Democracy Direct running mates, as well as independent councillors Fathers and David Chesney.

“We’ve always said we don’t agree on everything,” he told Peace Arch News.

But he emphasized that council was not locked into the numbers approved for study purposes.

“This only starts a process,” he said.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A proposed multi-family, multi-building development in east White Rock was the subject of a public hearing Monday evening. (City of White Rock image)
Pros and cons of White Rock housing development debated at virtual public hearing

Affordable housing need, traffic concerns among reasons cited for and against Beachway project

Photo: Surrey RCMP
Surrey RCMP arrests two boys, age 16, during dial-a-dope investigation in Whalley

Sergeant Elenore Sturko said one boy is ‘alleged to have been in possession of a loaded handgun at the time of his arrest’

The new Phoenix Flame BBQ truck serves as a “Mobile Community Kitchen” in the Surrey area. (Photo: phoenixsociety.com)
New ‘Phoenix Flame BBQ’ truck now mobile with food for Surrey’s ‘hard-to-reach populations’

Also launched: Another Surrey Honda Raffle to help the Surrey-based agency and others

Teachers at Maple Green Elementary in Surrey stage a walk-in before school on Wednesday (March 3, 2021), as Fraser Health continues to announce variant exposure cases at Surrey schools throughout the district. (Submitted photo: Julia MacRae)
Surrey Teachers’ Association calls for district-specific COVID-19 safety measures

STA holds third and fourth walk-ins after multiple COVID-19 variant exposures

A memorial of flowers, notes and photos grew quickly on the median adjacent to where Paul Prestbakmo died on Aug. 16. (Tracy Holmes photo)
Witness in South Surrey murder trial says he saw Paul Prestbakmo get stabbed

Defence questions difference between witness’ statements to police, testimony

Health Minister Adrian Dix looks on as Dr. Bonnie Henry pauses for a moment as she gives her daily media briefing regarding COVID-19 for British Columbia in Victoria, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
7 additional deaths and 542 new COVID-19 cases in B.C.

Provincial health officials reported 18 new COVID-19 cases linked to variants of concern

The City of Vancouver estimates there are 3,500 Canada geese in the city right now, and that number is growing. (Bruce Hogarth)
Help tame Vancouver’s Canada goose population by reporting nests: park officials

The city is asking residents to be on the lookout so staff can remove nests or addle eggs

Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson (Office of the Chief Justice)
Judge questions whether B.C.’s top doctor appreciated right to religious freedom

Lawyer for province says Dr. Henry has outlined the reasons for her orders publicly

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A sample of guns seized at the Pacific Highway border crossing from the U.S. into B.C. in 2014. Guns smuggled from the U.S. are used in criminal activity, often associated with drug gangs. (Canada Border Service Agency)
B.C. moves to seize vehicles transporting illegal firearms

Bill bans sale of imitation or BB guns to young people

BC Housing minister David Eby is concerned that Penticton council’s decision to close a local homeless shelter will result in a “tent city” similar to this one in Everett, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / Black Press file)
‘Disappointed and baffled’ B.C. housing minister warns of tent city in Penticton

Penticton council’s decision to close a local homeless shelter could create tent city, says David Eby

A recently published study out of UBC has found a link between life satisfaction levels and overall health. (Pixabay)
Satisfied with life? It’s likely you’re healthier for it: UBC study

UBC psychologists have found those more satisfied with their life have a 26% reduced risk of dying

A vial of some of the first 500,000 of the two million AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses that Canada has secured through a deal with the Serum Institute of India in partnership with Verity Pharma at a facility in Milton, Ont., on Wednesday, March 3, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Carlos Osorio - POOL
Federal panel recommends 4-month gap between COVID vaccine doses due to limited supply

The recommendation applies to all COVID-19 vaccines currently approved in Canada

Emergency crews are on scene at Walnut Grove Secondary School after a report of a bomb threat at Walnut Grove Secondary School on March 3, 2021. The school was safely evacuated. (Shane MacKichan/Special to Langley Advance Times)
UPDATE: Bomb threat forces evacuation of Langley high school

Police asked the public to avoid 88th Avenue and Walnut Grove Drive

Most Read