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White Rock council divided on 2 highrise tower proposals

‘We have an Official Community Plan and we should be sticking with it’: Trevelyan
The City of White Rock has reviewed and is moving forward for more information two tower proposals for the city in the area around North Bluff Road. (Artist rendering of George Street proposal)

Two tower development proposals for White Rock are moving forward, after divisive discussions in council chambers Monday evening.

“Democratic process is from bottom-up. I represent the residents of the city. We have an OCP (Official Community Plan) that we’ve put together, we’re going to review it, we will see what the public says and go from there,” Coun. Christopher Trevelyan said.

At Monday’s (April 29) regular meeting, council listened to two presentations for tower development proposals: a 31-storey building at 1513 Johnston Rd. and a 26-storey building at 1556 George St.

The 31-storey proposal from DA Architects + Planners would see the first two levels be used as civic spaces, with the next five levels for rent-to-own units and the remaining as strata market residential units.

Meanwhile, the George Street development, from Oviedo Properties Ltd. would include the first level as commercial space, the next three as residential rental units, following with two market residential and amenity spaces. Levels eight to 24 would be market rental units, while the remaining two would be mechanical levels.

A proposed 26-storey tower on George Street would include commerical space, pictured. (Artist rendering of George Street proposal)

Both proposals include underground parking.

The developer for the 26-storey tower said 20 per cent of the rental units would be affordable housing.

Both proposals included a motion for staff to look at amending the OCP in conjunction with the North Bluff Corridor Study.

In light of White Rock being added to the provincial list for receiving housing targets, to be hit in the next five years, some on council voiced support for the proposal to move forward while others urged for a pause until those targets were finalized and provided to the city.

“I know that in speaking with our CAO (chief administrative officer), the province is going to be sending in a group of individuals to speak with the planning department, and then there will be a report come back to council and we can proceed with the recommendations that the province is making,” Coun. David Chesney said.

“I think we’re jumping way ahead of the gun to look at this at the present time.”

However, Mayor Megan Knight said the area around North Bluff Road is the perfect spot to increase density, as housing is especially needed there, she said.

Trevelyan had particular issue with the George Street proposal, as it is 20 storeys above what is laid out in the OCP for the area.

“I’m not even going to comment on this proposal, on something that’s not even close to the OCP, and I do have concerns about moving this forward concurrently with the OCP because it really is a fantastic example of spot zoning,” he said.

“I wonder if maybe at my own house I could maybe knock it down and propose 10 storeys, maybe work in the OCP for that as well. I’ve got some great views where I am,” Trevelyan added, saying that his criticism is not against the developers but he would like to follow the “order of operation.”

“We have an Official Community Plan, and we should be sticking with it until we change it.”

Chesney also pointed out that to go from six storeys to 26 is a “massive leap” but could be necessary, while still siding with not moving the proposal forward until the province comes back with housing targets.

For the 26 storeys, the developer said they are looking to include “micro suites” in some units, after Coun. Elaine Cheung asked about the possibility.

“In a strata, you have a self-contained unit, condo unit, and you can rent it out yourself so it becomes a mortgage helper,” she explained.

This Johnson Road tower is one of two proposals being moved forward by the City of White Rock that would see highrises in the area around North Bluff Road. (Artist rendering of Johnston Road tower)

For the Johnston Road tower, the developer has a plan to include five levels of rent-to-own units where 100 per cent of the rent for three years will go towards a down payment on the suite. This new model gained support from Coun. Bill Lawrence, who called it “thinking outside the envelope.”

With 30,000 square feet of civic space proposed, Lawrence suggested that the space could be used for the community hub location where council chambers would move to.

RELATED: White Rock to move council chambers

Coun. Michele Partridge also voiced support for both developments, saying they are what White Rock needs and will help address the housing crisis. Trevelyan said adding two to three towers in the city will not solve the crisis, instead saying it is the responsibility of the provincial and federal governments to do so.

Cheung presented a motion to receive the report and to refer it to the community hub committee for comment. With only Trevelyan and Chesney opposed, the motion passed with Coun. Ernie Klassen, Lawrence, Cheung, Partridge and mayor Knight in favour.

For the George Street tower, Cheung presented a motion to move the project forward without it being tied to the North Bluff Corridor study. The motion carried with the same-split vote.

Sobia Moman

About the Author: Sobia Moman

Sobia Moman is a news and features reporter with the Peace Arch News.
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