White Rock council has recommitted to its plan to temporarily close one lane of Marine Drive, turning it into a one-way, as a measure to help provide more space for restaurants during COVID-19 indoor seating restrictions.
The plan is to be implemented by Monday, June 7.
The 5-2 vote in favour came during council’s regular virtual meeting Monday night (May 31), after Coun. Helen Fathers, who had previously voted for the closure, moved to rescind the original motion made at the May 11 meeting.
Only Fathers and Coun. David Chesney voted in favour of rescinding, with Mayor Darryl Walker and Couns. Christopher Trevelyan, Anthony Manning, Erika Johanson and Scott Kristjanson voting in the negative.
Council added a new-proviso to the one-way, however – endorsing a motion from Manning that the lane be re-opened as soon as provincial health authorities allow full-capacity indoor dining again, which may happen as soon as July, dependent on COVID figures.
Fathers said the lane closure, which will transform Marine Drive into an eastbound one-way, and detour westbound traffic down Columbia Avenue and Victoria Avenue, needed reconsideration in light of opposition from residents.
“It was a difficult decision, like I expressed in the original conversation,” Fathers said, noting that she “started off as a no-vote, then switched to a yes-vote.”
“I’ve never received so many emails from residents who are, quite frankly, not in support of it,” she added. “In the whole time I’ve been a councillor, apart from the towers uptown in White Rock, (I’ve not seen such) a significant amount of negative feedback.”
Fathers also noted last week’s easing of provincial ‘circuit-breaker’ policy banning all indoor dining to lessen the spread of the pandemic.
“I know people might say ‘they’re not at 100-per-cent capacity,’ but that, in my mind, doesn’t warrant (the move). I’ve really thought about the impact for the residents who live in that area, and the risk factor – it’s too great for me.”
But Kristjanson said further consideration of the measure, already voted on twice before by council, would be “an embarrassment.”
“(There are) 18 businesses who are interested in doing this; we’ve heard a lot of people saying they’re for it and a few that have said they’re against it, but that’s because we don’t have a plan yet,” Kristjanson said. “I trust that staff will come up with a plan that addresses all the issues.”
He said that restaurants have already made a considerable investment preparing for the measure and that to go back on it would show “bad judgment on our part, and bad faith.”
“I’m generally in favour of proceeding with this trial,” Manning said. “But we made this decision a couple of weeks ago based on information that has since changed. We need to look to amending this plan.”
Manning subsequently moved that the one-way measure last only until provincial health orders “allow 100 per cent indoor dining.”
Manning’s motion was passed by council, with Kristjanson and Johanson opposed.
The city has also been working with TransLink to establish temporary alternative bus routes as of June 7, Gordon said, adding that flaggers will also be assigned to Marine Drive for the first few days of the closure until drivers become accustomed to the new traffic pattern, which has been worked out by professional traffic-planning managers and reviewed by staff.