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White Rock introducing town centre height and density restrictions

Zoning amendment seeks to address concerns raised in OCP review process
A new zoning bylaw amendment introduced for the town centre area of White Rock is addressing many height and density concerns raised by residents during the Official Community Plan review process. (File photo)

White Rock council has given initial readings to a zoning bylaw amendment for the Town Centre area that would reduce allowable heights and density and generally slow the pace of development in that part of the city.

The amendment – which applies to the CR-1 zone bounded in the north by North Bluff Road, in the east by George Street, in the south by Thrift Avenue and in the west by Martin Street – was given first and second readings at council’s online regular meeting Feb. 8, with a public hearing scheduled for March 1.

Planning and development services director Carl Isaak explained to the Land Use and Planning Committee earlier that evening that the amendment is necessary to make zoning consistent with Official Community Plan review recommendations introduced late last year, following public consultation.

“If you want your OCP changes, whatever they are, to be effective, you’d also need to have the same regulations present in your zoning bylaw for that area,” Isaak said.

Isaak told the committee that there six key changes proposed for the Town Centre, which has seen a spate of highrise construction projects over the last two years, all of them approved during the tenure of the previous council.

The changes include reducing the overall height allowed, and encouraging a greater mix of uses, by establishing a maximum height of 10 storeys for CR-1 properties east of Foster Street and eight storeys west of Foster Street.

The exception to this would be buildings in “prominent locations” which could be as high as 18 to 29 storeys, where an on-site civic use facility – such as a conference centre, public art gallery or new city hall – is provided.

Isaak said the aim is to reinforce a pedestrian-oriented “high street experience” by introducing a maximum of three storeys for properties along Johnston Road – allowing a fourth only if there is a two metre setback from the lower storeys, and a seven-metre setback for street-level plaza space.

The changes would also establish the potential for more green space for tree planting and better water infiltration by requiring that sites larger than .75 acres have a minimum of 10 per cent “permeable” landscaping materials (such as bark mulch, wood chips, gravel and small-sized river rock) as opposed to “impermeable” materials such as asphalt, concrete, brick and stone.

Overall maximum density ratios would be lowered by at least 25 per cent, and rational consolidation (the assembly of smaller properties) would be encouraged by introducing minimum site sizes under which developers could achieve higher density.

“This is something we heard generally from people who participated in our workshops and open houses around the town centre,” Isaak noted.

In a bid to support greater housing choices and employment opportunities, larger developments would be required to provide either 30 per cent market rate rental units, or 10 per cent of units at 10 per cent below average rental rates, or be entirely employment-generating space, such as retail or office units.

The changes would also mandate that 50 per cent of all homes meet Adaptable Housing standards in the BC Building Code to better serve people with mobility needs and challenges.

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About the Author: Alex Browne

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