Any legal fallout from Surrey council’s decision last year to put new development on hold in local neighbourhoods certainly hasn’t been shared publicly.
Which is odd, considering the the City of White Rock’s response this week to a councillor who sought a half-year moratorium on highrise development in his city and was largely disparaged for his efforts on what was said to be a matter of legality.
The City of Surrey’s response, you might recall, was made one year prior after city staff advised council to “place all development applications in the Rosemary Heights Central NCP area that are discussed in this report on hold until the comprehensive review is complete.” The decision followed acceptance of a separate recommendation to not consider development amendments in Sunnyside Heights for six months.
Surrey council members – certainly not known in recent years for their anti-development philosophy – lauded the moves. White Rock council members, asked this week to consider not dissimilar objectives, did not.
White Rock Coun. David Chesney – noting that of 14 highrises approved by his council, only three did not require OCP amendments – presented a presubmitted motion to “endorse a moratorium on all development and building permits pertaining to all and any multiple-residence applications until after the upcoming civic election… Oct. 20.”
Mayor Wayne Baldwin’s response was to ask city manager Dan Bottrill whether such a move would be “ultra vires.”
Bottrill was certainly not unprepared in his answer: “The motion that is being proposed…would be ultra vires. In layman’s terms, it’s illegal, it’s outside of the law…. In fact, if we didn’t process building permits, it would lead to some litigation, liability and compensation.”
Nor was Baldwin’s response to that: “In other words, Coun. Chesney’s motion would have council conduct illegal action.”
Sadly, at the mayor’s asking if Chesney “still” wanted to make his motion, the first-term councillor took their bait. A more seasoned representative might have sought advice from the mayor and city manager on what would accomplish his goal.
As to whether others around the table agreed with his objective – more importantly, whether voters do – is another matter entirely. While his wording might have been flawed, his intentions were clear and worthy of public discussion.
Perhaps it comes down to the old saw: what a difference a year makes.
More likely, it’s what a difference a city makes.