A controversial two-tower project proposed for White Rock is one step closer to approval, after city council voted Monday to move the development forward to a public hearing next month.
Residents will have a chance to weigh in on the controversial 21- and 24-storey development at 1454 Oxford St. – which requires an Official Community Plan amendment and rezoning – on Dec. 7.
The narrow vote – with Mayor Wayne Baldwin and Couns. Helen Fathers and David Chesney against – came after a lively discussion about the proposal, confusion about the location of a small city-owned parcel on the property and a recommendation from staff to not proceed and to refer the project for more changes.
Two other developments – 12-storey projects located side-by-side on Thrift Avenue at Oxford Street – were sent back to city staff for further changes.
Presenting her report on the applications to the city’s land use and planning committee, director of planning and development services Karen Cooper recommended all three developments be referred back to staff.
Regarding the Oxford project – put forth by Elegant Development, and the subject of a 2,000-name petition opposing it – Cooper suggested a “reduction in massing,” which she said could be accomplished by making the towers more slender and increasing the setbacks.
However, it was the ownership of the land – previously owned by Epcor and sold to Elegant pending rezoning approval – that became the subject of debate.
Chesney brought up city council minutes and a newspaper clipping dating back to July 1975 that highlight a land-swap between the city and White Rock Utilities (then-owner of the water utility), designating an 80-by-100-foot parcel in the northwest corner of the property to the city as parkland, which contradicted Cooper’s report showing the parcel of city land located in the northeast corner.
“I certainly would like to have more information and clarification on exactly what happened with this,” Chesney said.
Cooper said there was no paper trail available to explain why the parcel was moved, but confirmed the land title’s office listed the northeast parcel as being owned by the city.
In tabling a motion – which was defeated – to have staff investigate the matter, Fathers said the new information would “put everything else on hold” until it was clarified.
Baldwin, however, said he sided with the “law of record” at the land titles office, “which I do not think makes very many mistakes,” noting there may have been a subsequent meeting that changed the location of the parcel.
Fathers then tabled a second motion to have the subdivision of the property reviewed by the city’s legal counsel.
“There are some questions that have been brought up by the community and this is a significant enough development proposal that a few more weeks will not make a difference if council wishes to move forward,” she said.
That motion was also defeated, with only Fathers and Chesney voting in support.
Prior to voting, Coun. Lynne Sinclair said the subdivision had been brought up many times and she was “convinced everything was done legally.”
“This is, in my opinion, just another attempt to further delay what have been proposals in front of us – or not in front of us – for a long time,” Sinclair said.
“I think last-minute things like this are the worst way we can make our decisions.”
Following lengthy discussion and clarification about the wording of the OCP and zoning bylaw amendments, several council members shared their rationale for voting.
Baldwin explained that he didn’t like voting against staff recommendations, noting “I haven’t really found a good reason for it.”
Fathers said she felt the application “can basically wait” until details were clarified, noting “we don’t hold any obligation to any developer that’s standing in front of us.”
Chesney alluded to the OCP review currently underway as his reason for voting to defer the project.
“If it’s the wish of our community to extend our town centre to Oxford, then I’d be more than happy to support all these projects,” he said.
Meyer said he was in support of moving forward, and wanted “to hear what the public has to say.”
Sinclair, also in support, discussed the history of the Everall neighbourhood, pointing to other developments in the area approved in recent years that also required OCP amendments and rezoning.
“Clearly it’s an area under change,” she said.
The two developments that did not pass first and second readings were referred back to staff for revisions; proponents are being asked to explore the idea of shared driveway access, as well as view-impact analysis. The community amenity contributions proposed for one of the projects, at the corner of Thrift and Oxford, are also being reviewed.