A decision by White Rock council this week to endorse a development permit for a 12-storey highrise planned for lower Johnston Road is dire news, says one area business owner.
“We have major concerns as a business here, for operating our business,” Kelly Breaks, owner of Blue Frog Studios, told Peace Arch News of council’s 5-2 vote regarding 1310 Johnston Rd. Monday evening.
“This is putting an existing business at risk.”
Breaks, via email, had asked council to hold off on issuing the development permit so that an expert could recommend “alternatives and techniques for noise abatement and construction vibration to allow peaceful coexistence for the immediate construction and for future operation.”
Left unaddressed, day-to-day operations at the 15-year-old recording studio “will be jeopardized,” he wrote.
Breaks explained Wednesday that Blue Frog is “not a convenience store that is going to be an inconvenience for traffic.”
“This puts us out of business because we’re all based about sound and recording, and we have clients that work with us every day of the week.”
Council approved the highrise – to be located immediately south of Blue Frog – last September. The following month, a 12-storey mixed-use highrise was approved for the Deals World site – immediately north of Blue Frog.
Breaks said he was surprised to learn June 21 that the development permit for 1310 Johnston Rd. would be considered this week. The news prompted him to appeal for the delay, expressing concerns to city staff and council that issues including shadowing, form isolation and electrical needed to be addressed ahead of the permit.
“If the city does to us what we now see happening to Johnston Road a block up from us, you’ll have dealt the ‘death knell’ to Blue Frog Studios,” he wrote.
While city clerk Tracey Arthur had earlier clarified to Breaks that council could only base their decision on the “form and character” elements of the application – the site is already zoned for 12 storeys – Breaks told PAN his concerns “all had to do with form and character.”
Arthur further noted in her email to Breaks that “if the DP is issued many of the noted concerns may be addressed once the developer has retained their contractor or is in the process of retaining their contractor.”
But Breaks said the issue is not with the developer.
“It’s the city’s responsibility,” he said. “If they’re going to approve all these developments, they have to look out for the businesses as well.”
According to the council agenda, council had an option Monday to defer consideration of the development permit. There was no discussion prior to the vote; Couns. Helen Fathers and David Chesney both voted in opposition.
Next, the applicant is to work out a servicing agreement with city staff and submit a building permit application, city communications manager Farnaz Farrokhi told PAN by email Thursday. If sales and marketing start this year, construction is likely to get underway next spring, she added.
With the development permit endorsed, Breaks said he’ll continue his push to get the city to step up.
He confirmed he has explored hosting larger live-music events in a banquet room that will be part of the completed Oceana PARC as part of planning for the impending construction disruption, but said moving the recording studio out of White Rock would be a last resort.
Breaks cited concerns with development being given precedence over arts and culture when he quit his position on the city’s cultural advisory committee in December.
Wednesday, he said the issue of established arts venues being impacted by development is not unique to White Rock.
“It’s happening all over North America, where arts, live-music places are just getting shut down, and they’re putting condos in,” he said. “What’s going to be left is lifeless towers with no arts and culture.”