White Rock to review tower heights in town centre

City voted Thursday to include the town centre in its official community plan review

Following a debate about what, precisely, was included in the Democracy Direct election campaign, council voted 4-3 last week to include White Rock’s town centre in its upcoming Official Community Plan review, extending the process by approximately eight months at an estimated cost of $50,000.

The motion to include the town centre in the OCP review was introduced by Democracy Direct White Rock (DDWR) Coun. Anthony Manning at a special meeting Feb. 14. He told council he brought the motion forward after noticing the property at 15141 Russell Ave., located in the town centre, is on the market. The building is home to Diva Fitness and Pilates Studios and Arthur Murray Dance Studio.

The property, which is being advertised by Royal LePage, is on the market for $5.5 million. The advertisement notes that “discussions with City Staff indicate they will review an application. Month to month Tenancies make this an easy buy and/or build today or in the future.”

While independent Coun. Helen Fathers told council that the owners of the two businesses have signed a five-year lease, the property has been identified by city staff as among areas most likely to be redeveloped, and zoning allows for the development to reach a height of 25 storeys.

“When I saw this for-sale ad so soon after our Monday meeting, I was pissed,” Manning told council, after he was informed by city staff that they have not been recently contacted by parties associated with the property.

“I know staff would bring anything forward if they had heard, but it really irritates me how this ad makes it seem like a fait accompli, and that’s a non-starter with me,” Manning said.

Prior to the vote, DDWR Coun. Christopher Trevelyan said the motion on the floor was to include the town centre in the review, but that doesn’t necessarily suggest that council has a desire to reduce heights in the town centre.

Fathers disagreed with Trevelyan’s suggestion.

“With all due respect, I find it very hard to believe, sitting around this table, because we all know that Democracy Direct ran on a platform of lower height in the town centre,” Fathers responded to Trevelyan. “My question is, if that is the desired outcome, why not just move a motion to lower the height in the one-third of the build-able area that’s left?”

DDWR Coun. Scott Kristjanson said, in response to Fathers, that during the campaign, DDWR promised to review the OCP, “not bring down heights. I’ve said that on my website for almost five to 10 years now.”

“It’s our election promise to have an OCP review and it may or may not change the heights and I’m OK with that,” Kristjanson said.

Independent Coun. David Chesney said that when council called for an OCP review, he was under the impression that all councillors agreed that for the sake of expediency, there was no concern about including the town centre in the OCP review.

DDWR Coun. Erika Johanson said the slate didn’t say that they would exclude the town centre from the OCP review.

“We weren’t necessarily looking to reduce the heights. I personally hope they do get reduced,” Johanson said.

Fathers, who noted she had been through the OCP process with the previous council and attended a number of OCP meetings, said that she and Chesney voted for some of the projects in the town centre.

“I think we all share the same constituents. Coun. Chesney and I topped the polls. I came first and Coun. Chesney came second,” Fathers said.

“Coun. Chesney and I voted for some of those projects in the town centre, our vote base went up, our percentages went up and we still sit here today.”

Fathers said residents seem to be upset about tall buildings being approved outside of the town centre, “that’s why you see no members of the (White Rock) Coalition here, because they voted for absolutely everything.”

Mayor Darryl Walker, who ran under the DDWR banner, was opposed to the motion to include the town centre in the OCP review, saying that staff and council have enough on their plate.

“I think we have to get busy on the rest of our community and I think it’s extremely important that the people see us as doing that. I think this is one that we need to turn down,” Walker said to council.

But Kristjanson said the vote is a matter of integrity.

“And sticking to your commitments, your election promises, and about doing what you say and saying what you do. To exclude any part of that OCP, to me, is breaking our election promises and it’s also violating trust for the people who voted for us who expect to have a say in the entire city,” Kristjanson said.

“We never made a promise to down-zone. We made a promise to consult with the people about the OCP. I cannot stress that enough.”

Walker, Chesney and Fathers voted against including the town centre in the OCP, while Johanson, Manning, Trevelyan and Kristjanson voted in favour.

White Rock’s previous council, which favoured members of the now-defunct White Rock Coalition, approved the city’s OCP in 2017.

The 39-acre town centre boundaries are Martin Street (west), Thrift Avenue (south), George Street (east) and North Bluff Road (north)


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