The original rendering of the Lady Alexandra (left), compared to the revised design (right), which the developers feel would have reduced impact on the streetscape and immediate neighbours. (Contributed images)

White Rock to host public hearing on Lady Alexandra project Monday evening

Public will be given opportunity to speak to building heights on the 1300-block of Johnston Rd.

City of White Rock is to host two public hearings Monday (March 11) evening at city hall, one relating to the height of the controversial Lady Alexandra (1310 Johnston Rd.) project, and another relating to building heights on the 1300-block of Johnston Road.

Starting at 7 p.m., the public will be given an opportunity to speak on a bylaw amendment to the height transition guideline for buildings on the 1300-block of Johnston Road from 10-12 storeys to four-to-six storeys.

A second public hearing is to follow, where the public will be invited to speak on changes to a bylaw for 1310 Johnston Road. The amendment is to replace the zoning of the property to allow for a six-storey commercial and residential building. Currently, 1310 Johnston is zoned to allow a 12-storey commercial and residential building.

The city’s public hearing agenda package shows that more than 20 people have contacted the city about both bylaw amendments.

Public submissions for the Lady Alexandra project show that 18 people support the bylaw amendment, three are opposed, and three people wish to share comments.

For the bylaw changes to the 1300-block of Johnston Road, 17 people are in favour of the bylaw amendment, two are opposed and two people wish to share comments.

The submissions were received from Feb. 17 to March 5.

The public hearings were initially scheduled to get underway Feb. 25, but were delayed by two weeks after the city didn’t meet advertisement requirements in the Local Government Act.

Former Vancouver city planner Brent Toderian was to have spoken at the Feb. 25 public hearing on the bylaw amendment for 1310 Johnston, but is unable to attend the March 11 public hearing due to being out of the country.

In lieu of his presence, Toderian has pre-recorded a 15-minute video statement to be viewed by council in five-minute increments, between other public comments, Monday evening.

In it, he warns the city of legal challenges and “devastating reputational damage and credibility damage” should the down-zoning bylaw be passed.

The mixed retail and residential use building had its development permit approved by council in 2018, but has since been held in abeyance by the city’s newly-elected council.

Lacking only a building permit, the project was clawed back under a provision of the Municipal Act, while council considers down-zoning the property – still home to the Leela Thai Restaurant and several other businesses – to a six-storey maximum.

In the video, Toderian, now employed as a consultant for the Lady Alexandra project, says he’s not “a hired gun.’”

“In 27 years, I have never seen a situation where an official plan was put in place, a rezoning was sought and approved for a particular development, the permit was sought and approved… then at the stage where a building permit would normally be applied for, the city initiates a down-zone process after an election,” he says.

He said the only reason why a building permit hadn’t been applied for yet is because the applicants had a “good faith interest in continuing to listen and improve the design.”

In the video, Toderian urges the city to consider a new, “improved” design for the 12-storey building.

In an email to Peace Arch News this week, Toderian said the new 12-storey design (which was created by a different architect than the current, approved design) has a “cleaner” architectural style and visual appearance that is better suited to the lower Johnston Road streetscape, including the Blue Frog Studios recording studio and live venue immediately to the north.

The revised podium design creates a better “human-scale” for a more walkable street with a three-storey podium and set-back to the building’s fourth floor, he said, while the design is improved by the removal of architectural embellishments at the top of the podium which would have made it seem taller and larger.

Paul Randhawa of GSR Capital Group Inc., who leads the proponents, sent an email to supporters, obtained by Peace Arch News, of the project March 7, urging people to write to council in support of the project.

“Downsizing this property after approvals were obtained simply makes the project nonviable due to significant cost of the land and expenses to bring the project to this point,” Randhawa wrote, adding that it “must be noted” that once a development permit is issued by the city, developers can sell units and obtain bank financing for the project.

– With files from Alex Browne

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