The City of White Rock went through the formal paces of a public hearing Monday night. The sitting, just one minute shy of five hours, was supposed – in theory at least – to cast light on a controversial development proposal.
In a seemingly snail-paced meeting, seven elected officials and a handful of senior city staff listened as residents – and others with vested interests – spoke passionately about council’s plans to alter White Rock’s Official Community Plan (OCP) to allow two highrises a couple of blocks west of its town centre.
In the end, the votes came down as many predicted. The mayor and four members of council noted for often speaking, acting and voting in unison, supported the proposal and put it through to an upcoming final vote, and the two members of council who are often accused of being naysayers said…nay.
For many, it seemed like an exercise in futility, but there were a few advantages to the process.
Those with an opinion about White Rock’s future were able to address their concerns on record (a somewhat rare opportunity, following council’s abolishment of question period earlier this year). Those who had yet to make up their minds were able to hear arguments both pro and con. For the more socially minded, it was certainly an opportunity for the public to see so many friendly neighbourhood real-estate agents in one place.
But, clearly, council’s intentions – which seemed to gallop forward at breakneck speed in recent weeks, ignoring advice of the city’s professionals – deserve to be put under a microscope.
The 24- and 21-storey development put forth by Elegant under the name ‘The Oxford’ will, no doubt, be only the first of many in the neighbourhood seeking to sidestep the existing OCP – a plan that, not long ago, residents were emphatically encouraged to weigh-in on and support.
Much less clear is whether the city’s purchase this fall of its water utility – for a shockingly yet-to-be-determined price from the development site’s owner, Epcor – had anything to do with the proposal. While this has been denied most strenuously by city manager Dan Bottrill, questions linger, as the city has opted to shield nearly all of its reasoning from the public eye.
Whether one agrees or disagrees with council members’ decision over this lone twin-tower development, or indeed the entire future of the city’s landscape, all should agree that individual council members should be held responsible for their roles in these significant processes that have, thus far, kept residents and business owners in the dark.