WHITE ROCK â€” If there was one takeaway issue from Thursday nightâ€™s White Rock all-candidates meeting, and one thatâ€™s been most constant in the lead up to the Nov. 15 election, itâ€™s development.
The issue seemed top of mind for the 250 potential voters gathered to hear candidates speak, as many applauded comments relating specifically to that issue during the two-hour event. All 17 councillor and both mayoral candidates were present.
And while questions specifically targeted topics like the Official Community Plan (OCP), taxation and infrastructure upkeep talking points inevitably seemed to all boil down to development.
For independent David Chesney, runner-up in the last two elections, development has not helped the cityâ€™s businesses, pointing out an increase in â€œfor leaseâ€ signs in the cityâ€™s commercial areas.
â€œWhere weâ€™re sitting (White Rock Community Centre) is where the densification happens,â€ he said, pointing out the controversial Bosa Towers highrise development. â€œBe very careful about the things said here tonight, we need to keep the development to the town centre, very plain and simple.â€
Doug Hart, of the White Rock Coalition said the OCP was â€œthe benchmark for developmentâ€ and he wanted to see the residents help update that in the coming year. Hart also floated the idea of introducing tax incentives for developers to encourage â€œsmart developmentâ€ in the city.
Longtime community activist Pat Petrala said city hall has not been listening to residents as evidenced by developments approved in the past few years, and questioned the point of councilâ€™s community consultation.
â€œCommunity input has been shelved, weâ€™ve watched highrises come in, mega homes and we didnâ€™t want them,â€ she said.
Former councillor Margaret Woods agreed with Petralaâ€™s assessment.
â€œI want to point out the Bosa deal was voted in very quickly," said Woods, adding 3,500 residents didnâ€™t want it but five councillors voted it through. â€œWhat I heard is weâ€™re going to have meetingsâ€¦ we already have a process and itâ€™s called public hearings but the public say â€˜We donâ€™t want it and it goes through.â€™â€
Incumbent Coun. Helen Fathers said it takes four votes on council to make something happen and noted that unlike others running for re-election, she does not accept donations from developers.
â€œThe majority on council are development-friendly,â€ she said.
White Rock BIA president Lynne Sinclair said she opposed the Bosa development but didnâ€™t want to keep White Rock looking back into the past.
Incumbent mayor Wayne Baldwin said he wanted to refine the area of the city along 16th Avenue around North Bluff. For taxation, he said contrary to the perception, development in White Rock has actually been slow going, therefore eliminating the chances of changing the tax schemes.
â€œBusiness taxes and residential taxes are set on a ratio, â€œ he explained. â€œOur growth is so small, you can only take DCCs (development cost charges) for growth so thereâ€™s almost no money we can collect.â€
Mayoral challenger David Bradshaw also challenged Baldwin on the current councilâ€™s handling of the OCP.
â€œThe problem isnâ€™t theory with OCP, the problem is you have to follow the damn thing,â€ he said. â€œThis â€˜comprehensive developmentâ€™ thing is a beauty, there are no guidelines for comprehensive development zones. Iâ€™m running for mayor to clean everything up, tell me what you want done, Iâ€™ll make sure itâ€™s followed.â€
To see what all candidates had to say at the event, visit the Nowâ€™s Twitter feed for play-by-play live tweeting.