White Rock town centre resident Barbara Ohl says a cap placed on heights in the area by council last week “totally devalues” the building in which she lives.
On April 26, council voted to give third reading to a revision of the town centre CR-1 zoning, after unanimously endorsing an amendment that would limit building heights in the area to eight to 10 storeys, generally, with an absolute maximum of 40 metres – the equivalent of 12 storeys.
Final adoption of the revision bylaw – as amended – is scheduled for council’s May 10 meeting.
Ohl said she speaks for some 37 other residents in her building – The Bayview, at 1521 George St.– who have signed a letter protesting the revision of the zoning bylaw.
She also spoke at the public hearing on the revision on April 19, expressing her neighbours’ views that the current zoning, which allows a 25- to 26-storey height, should remain just as it is.
“We live in a 44-year-old, six-storey concrete building, and when they (council) bring the zoning down to 10 storeys, they’re basically saying you don’t have any value in your property,” she told Peace Arch News.
“No developer is going to take down a six-storey building to put up a 10-storey building,” she said.
But Coun. Scott Kristjanson, who made the motion amending the revision (seconded by Coun. Erika Johanson), said that he feels redevelopment within the 12-storey limit it establishes is still economically viable for developers.
“I look at Surrey, on the other side of North Bluff, and there’s a lot of three-storey development there, just as there is in Burnaby and other municipalities. Those guys all made money. I think there’s a lot of spin that gets put on things.”
Furthermore, he said, the revision is only a zoning change – not an irrevocable decision.
“We can’t fetter ourselves or the next council,” he said.
“As I said at the time I made the motion, if someone came along in future and had a good case for a 35-storey building, we’d listen to it. I wouldn’t vote for it, personally, but the case could still be made.”
Among Ohl’s complaints are that, only two years ago, she and other strata owners in Bayview were offered some $17 million by a developer who wanted to rebuild on the site.
Ohl said that, with the latest zoning revision, she expects the market value of the property – which includes 30 residential units and six ground-floor commercial units – will plummet. While she has only lived in the building four years, she said, others have lived there 25 years or more.
But Kristjanson said this is the chance that every property owner takes in making an investment.
“It’s a long-term thing.
“If you wait long enough, a different council may have a different attitude.”
For her part, Ohl said she understands that the reduction in height limits is a result of campaign promises.
“Council is living up to the promise of bringing down heights that elected them, but they’re picking on our building,” she said. “I suppose they figure we’re just a bunch of old people.”
Kristjanson said however there is no intention to target any specific group of property owners, merely to reflect what the majority of people have told council they want over some two years of consultation and discussion.
“We’re just echoing what people have said,” he added. “People told us they didn’t want higher buildings. If we’d heard all that and had done nothing that would have been wrong.
“People who aren’t happy with the way a vote went always tend to say you have a bias. We represent the people and (Ohl) is one of the people. It doesn’t mean we didn’t listen, just that (her side) didn’t come up with the strongest case.”
Ohl also said she also sees no reason why the revision to the bylaw would limit the height at the Bayview site to 10 storeys, while allowing much higher buildings in the town centre.
But Kristjanson noted that the amendment to the revision bylaw, which would have originally allowed an 18- storey, a 23-storey and a 29-storey building as a trade-off for generally lower heights, will effectively take those proposals off the table for now.
“None of those has been given building permits, which would have meant they would have to have gone ahead.”
Ultimately, Kristjanson said, if the will of the people is to have higher building heights, then that will be reflected in the ballot box.
“They can choose not to re-elect this council, and elect some other council that believes in higher buildings,” he said.
“What I want to emphasize most of all is that voting matters – and we listened to the people who voted for us.”