White Rock council heard a litany of opposition last Wednesday evening against a proposed 12-storey building on Thrift Avenue – even though the public hearing was sparsely attended.
In comments from among some 40 people attending the 1½-hour hearing at White Rock Community Centre for the 33-unit Forge Development proposal – which was planned in the 14800-block adjacent to Forge’s existing Royce residential development, but subsequently rejected (see page 1) – only two spoke in favour.
The new plan – originally proposed as a six-storey building – was repeatedly attacked for being out-of-character for the hillside Everall neighbourhood; for being another exception to the city’s official community plan; for being too close to existing and planned water-treatment plants; for being a potential strain on city traffic, infrastructure and firefighting capabilities; for not being subject to sufficient geotechnical study; and for impinging on residents of the year-old Royce.
But project architect Mark Ankenman – noting the hearing was for the city to judge the merits of the proposed building alone – said a “taller slimmer” design “means we’re able to be a better neighbour.” Ankenman also said that the developers were “asked to advance” the design by city planners to be in keeping with the ‘draft official community plan’ – which, once review is complete, will replace the existing 2008 document.
“(It shows) the site as a high-density area,” he said.
This factor was picked up on by speaker Garry Wolgemuth – a frequent council critic – as indicating “a lack of transparency” and preferential treatment for the developer when the draft has not yet been made public.
Mayor Wayne Baldwin was quick to deny that such information had been shared – “We haven’t seen (the draft) yet.”
Baldwin later told Peace Arch News that he was surprised by Ankenman’s comment.
“I don’t know where that came from,” he said, “We (council) haven’t even seen the draft yet.”
Royce resident and strata council president George Scott told council he does not think the city should be entertaining another Forge project, as there are “numerous deficiencies that need to be addressed” little more than a year after his building opened, including water, gas and membrane leaks that are more consistent with buildings 20 to 30 years old.
Doug Wilson, president of Royce main contractor Peak Construction, defended Forge’s record on “quality issues” with the Royce and willingness to correct deficiencies in the building.
“I’ve been in business 24 years, and no building is ever perfect – I’ll be the first to admit that,” he said, noting “(Forge) has probably gone beyond what we would have expected with respect to correcting deficiencies.”
Surrey resident Dennis Lypka told council that Forge had been “disingenuous” in not revealing to Royce buyers that the new project – which opponents claim will obstruct residents’ views – was being planned.
White Rock resident Fiona McDermid submitted a petition of 79 names plus a further 88 signed form letters in opposition to the project – of which, she noted, 80 per cent come from White Rock residents.
McDermid said that of 160 submissions from Forge supporting the project, only 20 per cent represent White Rock residents.
“I’m frightened that this is going to be the new norm – that developers are going to come in and take out two homes and build 12 storeys in White Rock,” she said.
“We don’t want to be Yaletown, we don’t want to be Metrotown,” said resident Pat Petrala, urging council not to “rubber-stamp” the project.