The City of White Rock is sending a strong message that it is not considering closing the pier, the promenade or the waterfront parking lots as part of current efforts to impede the spread of COVID-19 – for now.
Council voted in the majority to support a motion on this from Coun. Scott Kristjanson, at a special virtual meeting called April 21 to consider a list of options submitted by staff.
The only negative votes were cast by Coun. Helen Fathers and Mayor Darryl Walker, who had argued that the city might want to keep all options on the table as circumstances, and provincial health orders, might change swiftly.
But Kristjanson said his motion already noted that such decisions were ultimately subject to provincial health orders.
“We might have to rethink this on Monday, or we might have to rethink it a month from now,” Kristjanson noted, while holding fast to his assertion that council still needed to quell rumours of such closures at present.
“We’ve seen many comments and social media posts from people who are concerned that this council is thinking of closing the pier, the promenade and the parking lots,” he said, in making his original motion.
“We need to make a statement making it clear that (these) are not on the table.”
Kristjanson received support from Coun. Christopher Trevelyan.
“I don’t believe this is saying that we won’t consider closing anything down in perpetuity, but right now there is a lot of concern in the community,” Trevelyan said.
At the suggestion of chief administrative officer Guillermo Ferrero, council whittled down the list of options, originally presented by Fire Chief Ed Wolfe on Monday (April 19).
In addition to removing closures of parking lots and waterfront areas, discussions of limiting traffic on Marine Drive were referred to council’s next regular meeting on Monday, April 26, at which it will receive a full report on potentially limiting the road to one-way traffic in a bid to add additional patio and walkway space to avoid overcrowding.
Council also endorsed an adjustment of the bylaw enforcement officer schedule and the hiring of additional casual officers, to increase their presence on Marine Drive during peak hours.
Planning and development services director Carl Isaak, under whose purview the enforcement officers fall, said the schedule adjustment could be achieved without further resources or budgeting, while financial services director Colleen Ponzini told council that the $28,000 cost for casual enforcement officers would likely be covered under the federal-provincial COVID recovery grant.
White Rock RCMP Staff Sgt. Kale Pauls told council that staff’s suggested increase in police presence on Marine Drive is already covered by an existing plan for the summer months (starting at the beginning of May and running through September) and that it would be within the current budget due to the cancellation of a number of special events this year.
Council also supported continuing a communications process to discourage outside visits and reinforce distancing and masking protocols. This would include LED sign messaging, additional waterfront COVID-19 signage (and replacement of missing signs), a banner on the pier, news releases, website updates and social media posts.