The developer of a contentious White Rock project made surprise concessions Monday following pressure from residents for the city to reject a proposed bylaw amendment that would allow extra height.
At a public hearing held at the White Rock Community Centre, Richmond-based LLW Holdings Ltd. conceded an extra two feet that had been requested for the project – originally proposed as a blend of apartments, townhouses and ground-floor commercial units for the former White Rock Mufflers site, at the base of Oxford Street – and offered to remove two townhouse units in order to create more green space.
The announcement – made by project architect Tim Ankenman – came late into the lengthy hearing for Bylaw 2001, which would amend the current bylaw restricting the height of commercial buildings in the area to 37 ft.
“This is a lot about balance and finding a solution to the site that marries aspirations and concerns that the public have rightly spoke about tonight,” Ankenman said, noting the common thread in concerns was height and lack of green space.
“I’m hoping with these two compromises that we don’t do the wrong thing and defeat this and go back to the original rezoning. Again, that has fewer parking stalls and more units. Rather, we can get rid of those two units and bring building one down to the height that is allowable.”
The extra two feet had been requested following a miscalculation – missed by the city and developer alike – that led to residential units of one building being designed to start below the floodplain.
Monday, more than a dozen people spoke – with all but Ankenman and one resident opposing the project.
Bob Berger, who lives across from the site, brought a petition with more than 200 signatures from residents opposed to the bylaw amendment.
Following the architect’s announcement, Berger thanked the developer for the compromise, but noted it wasn’t enough compared to what area residents have had to deal with.
“I do think it is a concession. However, you have to remember that transgressions have occurred from day one on this project and there are a lot of people here who are pissed off, including me,” he said, noting further discussion would be needed on the changes.
However, Mayor Wayne Baldwin told attendees that the city was not required to organize and hold another public hearing to discuss the revisions.
When transparency was questioned, Baldwin noted that residents can express their unhappiness when exercising their vote.
“If you want to vote against council, there is an election coming up in 22 months and you can do it then,” he said.
Baldwin also added that if the city flat-out rejected the developer’s bid – which, as revised, would adhere to current bylaws – a lawsuit would result.
“We’d be in court faster than you could say muffler site,” he said. “And we’d lose.”
Council is expected to vote on the amendment at the next regular meeting, set for March 11 at city hall.