White Rock’s mayor took a strong stand Monday against a highrise proposed for Vidal Street, criticizing public support for the project as “greatly diminished” by those who spoke in favour.
“Everyone is entitled to see the light,” Wayne Baldwin said, after giving up his role as meeting chair to comment.
Baldwin was referring to support heard at an April 29 public hearing from residents who, in the past, have stood firmly opposed to height and density in the city.
While the residents gave a “well-organized” presentation, “(we) need to do more than count for and against,” Baldwin said.
“You also have to consider the source.”
Baldwin’s comments preceded narrow votes by council to give third reading to official community plan and zoning amendments that will, if given final approval at a later meeting, facilitate construction of a 12-storey, 109-unit project at 1467-1519 Vidal St. The same vote result – with Baldwin and Couns. Helen Fathers and Al Campbell opposed – was given for third reading of an also-necessary land-use contract discharge bylaw.
The mayor’s stance was later criticized during question period, when former councillor Margaret Woods described his comments regarding project supporters as “disconcerting.”
Woods questioned how council could make a good decision when half of the feedback was to be ignored, but she was cut short when her questions turned to accusations of bullying and intimidation.
Baldwin – in addition to casting doubt on the public support, much of which came from residents currently living on the property in question – cited concerns with making “piecemeal” amendments to the city’s OCP; that the project constitutes “a significant departure from neighbourhood use and density”; and that the process has moved through the city’s system so quickly that staff have yet to negotiate amenity contribution.
Council last month adopted a policy on calculating amenity contribution for projects higher than three storeys proposed for the city’s town centre – but those rules would not apply to the Vidal site.
That policy is the city’s “biggest weapon in our arsenal with respect to bargaining,” Baldwin said.
In giving third reading, “the die is cast,” he said.
A motion by Baldwin to defer third reading until the amenity contribution was sorted out was defeated, with Couns. Louise Hutchinson, Bill Lawrence, Grant Meyer and Larry Robinson opposed.
In discussing the recommendation to give third reading to the amendments, the city’s director of planning and development services, Paul Stanton, said the step is needed to “close off” the public hearing and move forward with negotiations.
Asked if giving the step would reduce the city’s leverage in negotiating, Stanton said he didn’t believe so.
Campbell, however, expressed concern the decision would give the impression the project was “a done deal.” He described the proposal as “completely inappropriate for this area,” and said he was “astonished” that discussion on it had moved so quickly.
Speaking in support of giving third readings, Hutchinson said she is in favour of smaller-footprint projects in the city. At the same time, she described the Vidal proposal as “pretty monolithic-looking,” and said she would like to see the proponent come back with better drawings.
Final reading of the bylaws is to be considered at a subsequent meeting, pending completion of development prerequisites, including amenity contribution.