A White Rock city councillor is expressing concern over approving changes to construction projects after the work had been done.
Coun. Lynne Sinclair told city staff at last week’s council meeting that recommending a public hearing for an elevated walkway to 15283 Victoria Ave. – after it had already been built – was not something she could support.
“Why are you recommending that it go to a hearing instead of it being removed?” Sinclair asked director of planning and development Karen Cooper, who presented the development variance permit at the March 2 land use and planning committee meeting.
The elevated walkway was discovered after a building inspector noticed it, Cooper explained. The developer of the home – who recently entered into a purchase agreement for it – had submitted the change in his plans but not in a list of changes given to staff.
As a result, the addition of the walkway was overlooked.
“In the original plan, the access to the building was on the other side. The elevated walkway was not on the original plan,” Cooper said. “During construction – which is common – the developer decided to make some changes to the building, he identified those changes… all of those were approved.
“He also indicated on the plan the elevated walkway. If the plan examiner had viewed the drawing, they would have advised the applicant that they needed a variance permit. But that didn’t happen.”
While the developer is also building a number of houses along Victoria Drive, Cooper told council this is not a case of a prolific offender attempting to skirt rules.
“There was a certain degree of ambiguity; the elevated walkway was marked on the plan, but because it wasn’t listed on the list of changes, it was not really viewed by staff,” she said.
“Clearly, he intended to provide this walkway, it was on the plan, but he didn’t have it listed for staff to review.”
However, Sinclair expressed concern with allowing the variance go to public hearing. Addressing Cooper, Sinclair noted the bulk of development in White Rock is housing, and said allowing this change could set a precedent.
“If we allow people to break the rules and then say it’s OK… it’s a slippery slope,” she said. “We already have enough problems in this town as it is, and I’m actually really concerned.”
At least two neighbours expressed concerns at a public information meeting, with two others in favour, Cooper said.
Council voted to allow the variance permit to go to public hearing, with Couns. David Chesney, Megan Knight and Sinclair opposed.
If it is rejected, Cooper said the result will be a “significant redesign” of the property.
A variance permit was also requested for a property located at 1152 Parker St. that had “extensive reconstruction” encroaching on the setback without city approval.
While a majority of residents at a public information meeting approved of the addition, Mayor Wayne Baldwin noted the permit would likely have been declined, had it come to the city for approval.
“It really, really, really bothers me when these projects (come to us) after the fact,” he said. “I doubt very much it would have been approved.”
While Cooper explained there would be a financial penalty, Baldwin noted the changes “enhance the value of the property.”
Council voted unanimously to schedule a public hearing on that variance permit.