EDITORIAL: Hillside viewpoint

White Rock council’s decision to clear foliage on ‘the hump’ has caught some residents by surprise.

White Rock council’s decision to clear the foliage on ‘the hump’ – the unfortunately nicknamed hillside area overlooking the city’s namesake – certainly caught a number of residents off-guard earlier this month.

No public debate, no real declaration of intent, simply listed as “vegetation improvements” and plans to “upgrade Hump retaining walls” in the city’s 2014 to 2018 draft financial plan, it would be interesting to hear if elected officials assumed the public fully understood their intentions.

It seems most only took notice of the city’s plans – described by many as “clearcutting,” though city staff contest that term – after work was underway.

Some describe it as tragic; others describe it in glowing terms.

Certainly, the biggest winners will be those who own property just north of Marine Drive, which will gain views from the waterfront clear, on a good day, to the San Juan Islands.

The losers will be those who prefer the more natural terrain, whether for aesthetic reasons or because they put more value in the wildlife who make ‘the hump’ their home.

Predictably, there are those who will argue that the hillside, without the previously existing vegetation, will be on the verge of collapse. To the layman, that argument seems specious, given the responsibility we place on others to keep us safe. And not just civic officials ensure our safety; there are provincial and federal regulations that we must rely on, as well as the owners of the land in question, BNSF Railway, as well as Transport Canada, which oversees train safety.

That a city notice posted online May 4 maintains “slope stability” is a prime reason for the work, however, seems equally suspect. If that had been an issue, surely residents could have expected such conversation to dominate an open discussion of city council.

Instead, the public, once again, learns of city plans piecemeal, as though any meaningful discussions were held out of earshot.

Regardless of which side of the argument one finds oneself – pro-view or pro-rugged terrain – certainly all sides would agree it’s incumbent on city leaders to be upfront and communicative in their decision.

And on this front, they’ve come up short.

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