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White Rock council voted Wednesday to hit the pause button on two 12-storey residential towers planned for the city’s downtown core, a decision one developer said would “obliterate” several years of planning work.
The newly elected mayor, Darryl Walker, said he heard from many residents during the campaign who were frustrated by overdevelopment, specifically “height restrictions that were well above what the people of White Rock thought to be reasonable.”
At a meeting Wednesday night, the first since Walker and four of his Democracy Direct running mates were elected, council voted to cut the allowable height for two proposed mixed-use buildings on Johnston Road from 12 storeys to six while the city reviews its Official Community Plan, or OCP.
Although both projects, the 12-storey Lady Alexandra and the 12-storey Solterra, had received development permits and were within the limits set out in the city’s OCP, they had not yet applied for a building permit. Projects that had received or applied for a building permit, including several towers over six storeys already under construction, were not affected by council’s decision.
At the same meeting, council also voted to review the OCP, which was passed by the previous council in 2017 after almost three years of consultation.
Walker said he could not comment on the process used to arrive at the city’s current OCP because he was not on council, but he felt White Rock had given him a mandate to “go back and review” the document that guides planning and land use in the city.
Coun. Helen Fathers said her intention in voting to review the OCP and building heights was “not to decimate these projects.”
The incumbent councillor said debate in White Rock is often split between pro- and anti-development voices, and “council’s job is to find something in the middle.”
The developer behind one of the proposed buildings on Johnston Road said he was worried council had become anti-development.
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