The BC Court of Appeal has dismissed the case against the City of White Rock regarding the proposed Lady Alexandra development on Johnston Road.
In December of 2020 the owners of the planned building, G.S.R. Capital Group – representing a group of mostly local investors – had appealed a B.C. Supreme Court decision that determined the City of White Rock was justified in down-zoning the 1310 Johnston Rd. property from 12 storeys to six.
But in a decision handed down Friday (Feb. 4) the court upheld the opinion of Supreme Court Justice Carla Forth, who found on March 31, 2020 that the city had acted correctly in denying a building permit to the 12-storey high rise in November of 2018.
“It’s a relief in that it’s one less thing we have to deal with,” Mayor Darryl Walker said, noting that the case had dragged on for a long time.
“It was the kind of thing where we’d wonder what was happening every few months and check in on it, but there didn’t appear to be much progress.”
The Lady Alexandra project had previously received development permit approval in July of 2018, for which council had amended White Rock’s OCP and zoning bylaw to permit a 12-storey building on the property. But a building permit application had not yet been submitted for the project because of revisions to the design.
Following the municipal election in October 2018, the newly-elected council amended the OCP again to reduce the maximum height of building on the G.S.R. property to six storeys, and rejected a subsequent building permit application.
Lawyers for G.S.R. had argued that the Supreme Court had erred in not considering the development permit binding on the city.
But in his reasons for judgment, Justice Harvey Groberman ruled that the Local Government Act does not bind the city to follow a prior development permit, and that it was not unreasonable for the city to describe the project as a “proposed development” when G.S.R. made its application for a building permit.
“It is true that the City had issued a development permit, and that, in that sense, the proposed development had moved beyond its earliest stages,” he noted.
“It seems to me, however, reasonable to describe the project as a “proposed development.” Construction had yet to commence, and there was no assurance that it ever would. It is true that G.S.R. was bound by the terms of the development permit, but those terms did not compel it to go ahead with the project.”
“What we did, we were allowed to do under the Community Charter,” Walker said. “Our staff had showed us right away where we could limit heights and things like that, and they were correct.”
Walker also pointed out that council was delivering on a campaign promise to limit building heights in the city, particularly in the lower Johnston Road neighborhood.
“The sense was that this was what the people of the community were asking for,” Walker said. “It was a reaction to the election and what we thought people wanted.”
Noting that the city is some eight months away from another election campaign, he said that the issue of building heights is more than likely to crop up again.
“This council was all on the same page when it came to building heights,” he said. “We should be talking about what we’ve accomplished, and this is one of those things.”
He also said he would not be surprised if the Lady Alexandra proposal returns in some form that fits the current zoning and OCP.
“They are the owners of the the property – and I think they’ll come back with a new proposal. We were open to a proposal all along.
“We want development in the community – but we want the kind of development the community agrees to.”
Peace Arch News has reached out to G.S.R. founder Paul Randhawa for comment but, as of Friday afternoon, had received no response.
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter