Business owners along a stretch of White Rock’s Russell Avenue were expressing frustration this week, after parking in front of, and access to, their storefronts was unexpectedly blocked by a drilling crew.
“They said they’re going to be here for the whole week, and the City of White Rock provided no notice at all,” Ron Yoong, owner of Penang Restaurant, said Tuesday afternoon, above the roar of equipment stationed immediately outside of his establishment.
The work, which an Imperial Oil spokesperson confirmed Wednesday afternoon was connected to the nearby site of a former gas station, also sent fumes and noise into the businesses.
Yoong said crews set up along the block early Monday, with cones and signage restricting parking on either side of Russell Avenue, between Johnston Road and Goggs Avenue, until 5 p.m.
Tuesday, trucks and equipment lined the south side of Russell, and a parking lot immediately behind Time II Dryclean was blocked to the public; yellow caution tape encompassed the sidewalk, and signage directed pedestrians to walk on the north side of the street.
A worker at the site told Peace Arch News that a road permit had been issued for the entire week, but directed further inquiries to officials at Parsons Corporation. According to the company’s website, the Langley-based firm is an “engineering, construction, technical and professional services team… focusing on infrastructure, defense, security and construction.”
A Parsons representative was not immediately available to speak with Peace Arch News. A message later directed PAN to an Alberta phone number, which linked to Imperial Oil’s media line.
Wednesday afternoon, Imperial’s Christine Randall told PAN by email that the work is “to collect additional environmental data associated with a former service station.”
City of White Rock officials were also not immediately able on Tuesday to confirm what the work was about, although communications manager Farnaz Farrokhi said she had been told that Imperial was doing some checking of their property. (The lot at the northeast corner of Johnston Road and Russell Avenue used to be home to a gas station.)
Wednesday, Farrokhi confirmed all the necessary permits were in place for the work, and said it was the responsibility of the contractor to notify impacted businesses.
“Generally the City likes to see at least 48 hours’ notice given,” Farrokhi said by email. “City staff have followed up with the contractor and asked them to ensure they communicate better with those businesses and that they minimize curb side parking concerns.”
Wednesday afternoon, parking was available on the east half of the block.
Randall said Imperial “aims to minimize disruptions to surrounding communities and businesses,” but acknowledged that communication regarding this work was lacking. She said Imperial “engaged some businesses in the area, but more could have been done.”
“In the future, we will increase communication with the surrounding property owners and notify them well in advance of upcoming work,” she said. “We thank community members and businesses for their patience and apologize for any inconvenience.”
Yoong said Tuesday that if the noise and fumes from the work didn’t abate – both were abundantly evident inside his restaurant that afternoon – he may close his business during the lunch hour. On Wednesday, that was the case.
Jessica Sandhu from the nearby White Rock Supermarket said her family’s business was also impacted.
“Usually, this time of day we’re really busy,” she told PAN Tuesday afternoon.
Sandhu said they, too, were not warned the work would be taking place.
“Even if they have a permit, they should have asked,” she said.
Across the street, 49th Parallel Pharmacy & Medical Clinic owner Vishal Trevedi said he, too, was surprised by the work. The noise, air pollution and parking loss were all creating issues for his business as well, he said, describing the clinic and pharmacy as “so quiet” as a result of the work.
“A few of our patients complained,” he added, noting many who visit the clinic have mobility issues.
While Randall did not specify if the work was connected to any future development, Trevedi said he hoped it wasn’t related to plans for a highrise in the area.
“Why should everybody else pay for that?” he said.