Thursday, 29 September 2011

RE: BUILDING HEIGHTS KEY TO WHITE ROCK'S VIABILITY

Shortly after being elected in 2008, the CPR Slate Majority on Council ( Sinclair, Campbell, McLean, Fathers, and Coleridge) forced through a hastily formulated amendment to the Official Community Plan (OCP) which reduced the allowable density and capped the maximum building height in the Upper Town Centre at 12 storeys.

It is important to remember that we are only dealing with the Upper Town Centre here. This is defined as the blocks bounded by North Bluff, Martin , Thrift, and George.

The intent of the CPR amendment was to ensure that no more high rises such as the Bosa Development would ever be built again. Of course that disregarded the Essence Project on Thrift between Johnston and George which has at least one 15 storey tower, and the Avra development just half a block to the  north which has one 15 storey tower. It also disregards the remaining two towers of the Bosa project.

In October, 2010 Council evidently noticed Johnston Rd in particular, was not looking very attractive to business, and so they commissioned a $50,000 study by  Coriolis Consulting Corp. The entire 116 page report (Business Needs Assessment Study) is available on the Home Page of the City's website.

The report is quite exhaustive (and exhausting to read). The major point which comes out of it is that in order for White Rock businesses to do well, and for new businesses to move here and fill up those vacant store fronts, Council needs to take some steps to provide customers for the businesses.

Since White Rock is highly unlikely to attract the kind of businesses that are "destinations", it must attract and retain businesses which cater to the local population (the exceptions to this are the Marine Dr restaurants). The present population uptown is insufficient to provide enough customers. Consequently, we need more people living in the Town Centre within easy walking distance of the stores.

The only way for more people/ customers to come is to have more redevelopment. Coriolis states that redevelopment will not happen with the recently imposed density restrictions the CPR Slate put in place. Simply put it is uneconomical to redevelop White Rock's Town Centre at the current allowable density - so things will never improve they will only get worse. The CPR led Council goofed - not only did they stop high rises they stopped everything!

"So what?", you might ask. Well aside from adding a lot to your quality of life, and providing employment to a lot of people, healthy businesses pay healthy taxes. Without the business taxes we receive the residential property taxes would be a lot higher - to the point where having to join Surrey is no longer a possibility , it is inevitable.

Personally, while I am not too sure that greater heights are absolutely vital, I am very sure about the need to increase the allowable density.

"White Rock Matters"

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