A four-storey, multi-unit development proposed for the north-east corner of White Rock has been rejected in a split vote by city council.
The project, proposed for 1453 Stayte Rd., was a 49-unit, four-storey building – designed by Atelier Pacific Architecture for Vanhome Properties – which had been described by the architect as “an affordable housing option.”
But overwhelming resident opposition expressed in letters, petitions and public hearing comments streamed online to council June 22 was enough to persuade a majority of members to turn down the necessary rezoning on third reading Monday night (June 29).
Final decision was 4-3, with Couns. Anthony Manning, Scott Kristjanson, Erika Johanson, and Christopher Trevelyan voting against the project and Mayor Darryl Walker, and Couns. David Chesney and Helen Fathers voting in favour.
Opposing councillors noted the move to a four-storey building in a largely single-family townhouse and small condominium area was a step too far for residents concerned about density, parking and traffic issues.
Kristjanson said his vote came down to heeding the wishes of the majority.
“I was elected as a representative of the voters of the local small businesses here and the residents and I can’t ignore – as much as I like this building – 95 per cent of the residents who are opposed,” he said.
“I do support development, but it has to be supported by the residents, and that’s my axiom.”
Johanson said the previous council had classified the area as ‘an urban neighborhood’.
“However, it is surrounded by a mature neighborhood, including the Surrey side of the street. It is nowhere near the urban containment boundary, it is not part of the town centre or lower town centre,” she said.
“In the current OCP it states that the urban neighbourhood areas build on existing character of apartment areas, within walking distance of the town centre.
“This development is none of these – rather, it is a prime example of spot-zoning.”
Manning, while thanking the developer and architect for making some changes to the project plan based on feedback from the city and residents, said it still didn’t fit current requirements for redevelopment of the area.
“If it was up on North Bluff instead of Stayte Road, I would be all for it – it does offer a wide range of housing from one bedroom to three bedrooms and that is a good mix for our community, but not a single unit is being offered through the Affordable Home Ownership program.”
But others supporting the development suggested it offered a pragmatic solution to issues of increasing density and providing affordable housing that will need to be addressed sooner or later by the city.
Walker said he supported the project “primarily because I think we need projects like this in our community – we need housing, we need density.”
He said that in the same area there are already townhouses and condominiums and business properties in close proximity.
“It’s wood frame, I think it’s affordable, it’s one, two and three bedroom housing which is something we sadly need – it’s not 18 storeys of concrete, which is something we seem to get with some regularity.”
Chesney, who said the design was “a beautiful building,” noted he had not run for election “on any promise to not approve any construction in White Rock.”
Fathers noted the public hearing comments of Dennis Buhlin – a resident of the nearby The Arcadian condominiums – who had supported the project, feeling that many residents are simply resistant to change of any kind.
“He totally had it right, for me,” she said. “At some time that property will be developed and who knows what the next council has the ability to do…I’ve been on councils where the council of the day has approved much higher, much greater density – I’ve seen those projects, they’re built right now.”
But Trevelyan argued that “every single person I’ve heard opposed to this project said they were open to development and that they understand it will be developed – just not a four-storey building in a single-family home neighbourhood.”
During the public hearing on the project – White Rock’s first ‘electronic’ public hearing – council and staff at city hall had heard comments streamed live from White Rock Community Centre, to ensure that COVID-19 physical distancing guidelines were maintained.
Push-back against the development was evident even before the hearing started – a majority of 37 written submissions from residents, including three petitions and 16 form letters, voiced opposition.