The apparent lack of a plan – and lack of public communication – for the White Rock hillside this past year is doing the city little favour.
The issue first came to the forefront nearly a year ago when contractors began removing foliage without warning. Confronted, civic leaders said it was to promote stability and to improve lines-of-sight for the BNSF Railway that owns the land – not, as many presumed, to clear lines-of-sight for hillside residents’ ocean views.
It should be noted that BNSF’s spokesperson confirmed to Peace Arch News that the rail-safety issue was one specific tree and that “what I’ve been told by the city is that they’re not taking large trees out…. They’re controlling the vegetation, brush, shrubbery and smaller scrub-type trees.”
But the work continued much further than that, and we were then told city crews actually needed to access the hillside’s retaining wall for repairs. Again, it was assured, many of the larger trees would remain. As the days and months progressed, this seemed less than likely.
Early in the process, after residents demanded to know the plan for the hillside, Mayor Wayne Baldwin conceded the city should have had one.
Save for Coun. Grant Meyer approaching PAN in December to revive a long-abandoned rendering of a parking and pedestrian plaza there, we’ve heard little from the city since.
Until this month, when we were provided with a City of White Rock internal staff email – released to a resident as part of a freedom-of-information request – that provided an estimate for leasing the land to be used as a parking lot.
The mayor denied all knowledge.
Which leads us to wonder why city staff sought this information. City manager Dan Bottrill said he asked for it because “there were some ideas about whether or not” parking was an option, and that he wanted to have a ballpark estimate in case the idea was pursued.
But if the mayor had no knowledge of such discussions, it begs the question – who presented these ideas to city staff?
In the end, no matter on what side of the argument you find yourself – pro-landscaping, pro-natural state, pro-views, pro-parkland or pro-parking lot – the city has a mandate to be direct in its communications to the public.
If the only meaningful dialogue is going on behind closed doors – or between select residents and select officials – it becomes clear that communications are failing in the City of White Rock.
Of course, it could also mean someone had a plan after all.