White Rock to re-vote on contentious zoning bylaw

It appears likely that White Rock will ultimately pass its rezoning bylaw complying with provincial housing edicts this week.

This comes after the vote taken Monday (June 24) — on the bylaw’s third and final readings — failed in a three-to-three tie, in a last-ditch pushback against the province’s Bill 44 by councillors Christopher Trevelyan, Ernie Klassen and David Chesney.

But Mayor Megan Knight — who said she was “disappointed” by council’s vote, claiming it placed the city in a “terrible” situation — has called a special meeting for Thursday (June 27, after Peace Arch News‘ deadline), under Section 131 of the Community Charter.

The meeting calls for reconsideration and another vote on the bylaw — Zoning Bylaw, 2024, No. 2506 — at which time it is likely it will pass. Cities have been given a June 30 deadline by the province to comply with Bill 44.

Monday’s tie vote was Knight and councillors Bill Lawrence and Michele Partridge in favour, and Trevelyan, Klassen and Chesney opposed (Coun. Elaine Cheung was absent).

The bylaw is the city’s attempt to address the bill, which mandates requirements for small-scale multi-unit housing (SSMUH). The provincial legislation takes a lot of zoning control — and ability to mandate parking minimums — away from cities, particularly in areas near transit routes, in the interests of maximizing affordable housing supply.

In some sections of White Rock, particularly in a six-block area west of Oxford Street, it could enable redevelopment of single-family lots to allow as many as six units (some 1230 potential homes in that area, according to calculations made by Trevelyan), while denying the city authority to require even one parking spot for such development.

Another feature of Bill 44 is that it also prohibits public hearings on SSMUH bylaws.

A motion by Trevelyan to have a letter he drafted to housing minister Ravi Kahlon on behalf of council, protesting this and other aspects of Bill 44, also failed on Monday, on the same three-to-three split (Trevelyan, Chesney and Klassen in favour; Knight, Partridge and Lawrence opposed).

Trevelyan’s letter pointed out that White Rock is already the ninth most densely populated city in Canada — second among cities with 5,000 to 25,000 population — and according to one consultant has a “disproportionately” large number of small lots.

“Given our existing density is greater than nearly all Metro Vancouver cities, the additional imposed density of Bill 44 is significant,” Trevelyan wrote in his draft. 

Knight had underlined at the June 10 meeting — at which first and second readings had been carried (with Trevelyan and Chesney in opposition) — that the bylaw comes under the provincial prohibition on public hearings for SSMUH projects, and there was nothing the city could do about it.

The prohibition of comment or public hearings, Trevelyan stated in his draft letter, “appears to be deeply concerning and even undemocratic.”

“While the province has the legal power to impose Bill 44 on cities, forbidding public feedback is another matter entirely,” he wrote. “While the province has no requirement to heed public comment, certainly there can be no reason not to hear the concerns of British Columbians regarding the impact of a new law on their city.”

Chesney noted at Monday night’s meeting that the City of Surrey is canvassing its citizens on the impacts of Bill 44 prior to taking final action to comply.

Trevelyan also argued at the meeting that while the province has the authority to impose Bill 44, a pause prior to direct provincial intervention would be “simply a matter of timing. … I think we should take a little bit of time, reach out and listen to our public, get some feedback and share it with the province, even though public hearings have been forbidden.”

“We don’t have that luxury,” Knight stated. 

“We’ve got a deadline of June 30, and now we’ve told the province we’re not going to do that. … I’m disappointed because now we’re going to go to the province and they’re going to just send someone in here and say ‘yes, you’re doing it.’ They’re going to override us.”

In response to a question from Trevelyan, Knight said she had “no idea” whether Surrey was going to meet the deadline or not.

“I don’t think everyone at the table understands … they are going to come in and make the decisions for us,” she said.

“And, yes, you can write a letter and say you don’t like it, or whatever — it’s legislation, it’s the law and we had to abide by it…

“Just saying ‘no, I don’t like what you’re doing’ isn’t going to make any difference. So you’re putting us in a very terrible position. … I’m disappointed.”  





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