Critics make waves over White Rock’s $30-million seaside plan

Officials promoting pricey plan to remake the city’s waterfront with a seaside walkway and amenities they hope will draw visitors

  • Jun. 6, 2016 3:00 p.m.

A preliminary concept drawing shows White Rock’s plan for a $30 million seaside walkway and amenities. A 10-metre high whale sculpture appears in the background.

By Kent Spencer

White Rock officials are promoting a pricey $30-million plan to remake the city’s waterfront with a seaside walkway and amenities they hope will draw visitors from around Metro Vancouver and fill the city’s bars and restaurants.

Concept drawings show a 10-metre-high whale sculpture, a 180-metre seaside walkway and a park covering 6,500 square metres of land reclaimed from the ocean at a cost of $15 million.

But critics say the city of just 20,000 can’t afford “vanity” expenditures that add up to almost as much as the city’s  $35-million annual budget. To put the expenditures into perspective, it would be like Vancouver spending $1 billion on Stanley Park over five years.

“We’ve never had that kind of money in the life of this city. I’m begging the mayor not to ruin the waterfront on an ego project,” said city resident Roderick Louis.

Dennis Lypka, a longtime White Rock resident who has moved to Surrey, notes that the various projects are budgeted over five years, but warns they’re “a lot of money for a rinky-dink town with annual revenues of $35 million.”

“The money will come on the backs of taxpayers,” said Lypka.

The proposed expenditures are very big. To put them into perspective, it would be like Vancouver spending $1 billion on Stanley Park over five years.

A key goal is to attract customers to the city’s bars and restaurants.

Concept drawings show a 10-metre-high whale sculpture, a 180-metre seaside walkway and a park covering 6,500 square metres of land reclaimed from the ocean at a cost of $15 million.

There is also a marina expansion pegged at  $850,000; $1 million for a memorial park; $2 million worth of seabed dredging; $300,000 for marine buoys; and $5.5 million for a waterfront parkade.

Mayor Wayne Baldwin said $13 million will come from fees  expected to paid by high-rise developers  and additional funds are expected to come from government grants; shortfalls could be covered by cutting out things like the memorial park.

“The money will be there and it won’t be coming from the taxpayers,” Baldwin said.

“We wanted to acquire a bit of space on land reclaimed from the ocean and protect the East Beach from erosion; $15 million is just a guess for the seaside walkway. It might be $1.5 million,” Baldwin said.

Criticism has been focused at the idea of putting a breaching humpback whale on the waterfront surrounded by a pool of water jets.

“It is offensive. You go to the beach to enjoy peace and quiet,” said Lypka.

Baldwin said  the initial designs were intended to get peoples’ attention and the final result should not be judged by them.

“I don’t even know if the whale is going to be there when we are finished,” he said.

Resident Barry Belec, a one-time member of the city’s environmental committee who was not invited back, said a “super-densified” city filled with high-rises is not what he envisions for the future.

“I’m very upset at what’s going on. Families used to bring blankets and come for all-day picnics. You could park on the side streets, but that isn’t allowed any more. The seaside walkway is the kind of ridiculousness that comes from people who want to go to the beach and not get sand on their shoes,” Belec said.

“Putting a concrete wall down will have a profoundly devastating effect on the marine ecology. When you cut off nutrients washing down the hill, you are starving all the crabs and fish from supporting themselves.”

Coun. Dave Chesney said it’s unfortunate that there is “confusion” about the plan.

“One thing I can tell you,” Chesney said. “There won’t be a whale-spouting plaza. It was a pie-in-the-sky design. … People are right to ask questions. We’ve done a poor job of communicating as a council.”

Chesney aims to get people back in the habit of going to White Rock to enjoy seaside restaurants, which are among the most numerous in Metro Vancouver.

“Our main industry is tourism. We have Canada’s longest wooden pier. I don’t see a problem with having a marina. Yachts will come in and moor at the pier,” he said.

“Too many people say it’s been years since they went to White Rock. Our  challenge is to make it more of a year-round destination.”

Lypka said council has committed the money to its five-year plan and now has the authority to spend it.

“The concept of user-pay should be remembered. Twenty or 30 restaurants will benefit for 10 or 15 days a year. The people paying the freight won’t benefit,” he said.

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