Alex Browne photo                                Protesters who gathered outside White Rock Community Centre before the public hearing on a five-level parkade near the waterfront carry placards into the hall.

Alex Browne photo Protesters who gathered outside White Rock Community Centre before the public hearing on a five-level parkade near the waterfront carry placards into the hall.

White Rock parkade decision delayed

Majority of speakers voice opposition at three-hour public hearing

Opponents of a five-level parkade near White Rock’s waterfront have received a week’s reprieve from a council decision on the contentious project.

After three hours of hearing from residents why they feel the $11.4-million project at the corner of Vidal Street and Victoria Avenue is a bad idea, city council Monday evening unanimously approved a motion from Coun. Lynne Sinclair to refer the decision, due that evening, to the next meeting, Sept. 18.

More than 120 people packed the White Rock Community Centre hall, including about 35 placard-carrying protesters who had gathered outside earlier.

Of more than 30 who addressed council, only three were in favour of the project as proposed – which planning director Chris Johannsen explained would now include a solid concrete wall as a light and noise buffer between the parkade and residents of the Sausalito condo building.

Restaurateur Tyson Blume, White Rock BIA executive director Jennifer Brandon and former Ocean Beach Hotel owner Antonio Veltri all spoke of the importance of a parkade in sustaining and growing business on the White Rock strip.

Opponents argued that it is not the business of the city to provide direct benefits for businesses, with Garry Wolgemuth noting restaurateurs had been conspicuous by their absence at the hearing.

“There was no support from restaurateurs – we heard from one,” Wolgemuth said. “If it’s such an important thing why weren’t they all here? And if it’s so important why can’t they cough up for it?”

Speaker after speaker hammered at the same themes, to frequent applause, in spite of a request from Mayor Wayne Baldwin to the crowd to refrain from applauding. Speakers referred to an increasing distrust of the current administration; of feelings that the city is not listening to residents; and questioned why the city had already started engineering work on the project in advance of the public hearing.

“It seems like a fait accompli – it doesn’t matter what anyone says,” said David Benallick, whose deliberately bemused repetition of “$11.4 million” won frequent laughs from the crowd.

Gillian Parkin noted that the height and scale of the building not only goes against the city’s newly revised OCP – it calls for 90 per cent coverage of the site with no setbacks.

“(Such a project) would not get traction if it were not city-owned,” she said.

Council heard repeatedly that what some referred to as “a concrete monstrosity” will block views and impinge on the quality of life for residents neighbouring the site; that it will create traffic hazards on an already-busy corner where trucks and semi-trailers find difficulty manoeuvering; and that it will provide a haven for underage drinkers, drug abuse and other criminal acts.

Some who expressed some measure of support for a parkade said it should be two to three levels at most, with one of those underground, and possibly some form of roof garden.

Others suggested there could be more creative solutions for getting people to the beach that would encourage tourism.

Still more said there is no need for the additional 200 parking spaces the parkade is calculated to provide, as existing parking lots are underused for most of the year.

Resident Sandy Nightingale produced photographs taken on Aug. 4, during the Sea Festival weekend, that showed virtually empty lots on West Beach including the parkade under the Montecito – while other speakers noted that a parkade on West Beach would do nothing for business on East Beach.

There was also extreme skepticism expressed for the business case for the parkade advanced by chief administrative officer Dan Bottrill, with some questioning such an investment of public funds for a negligible return in revenue, and describing estimates of increased revenues as “optimistic” at best.

“It will be underused for 95 per cent of the year and operate at a huge loss,” Nightingale said.

Baldwin also came in for criticism for past comments that some of the money for the parkade will come from community amenity contributions (CACs) from development elsewhere in the city.

“CAC’s are public monies – the same as taxes,” Surrey resident and long-time council critic Dennis Lypka said.

“There’s a lot to think about and digest,” Sinclair said following the public hearing.

She later told Peace Arch News there are many considerations to take into account.

“We’ve not had enough time to think it through,” she said.“I’ve lived here my whole life and I take it seriously when that many people come out to speak. Many of them are people we haven’t heard from before, and they’ve done a lot of homework on this.”