Judge orders council to approve unpopular condo complex

Monday, June 1st, 2009

Development plan met city bylaws but council exceeded its jurisdiction in denying the project based on ‘vague’ public opposition, court finds

Kelly Sinoski, With files from Mary Frances Hill

A B.C. Supreme Court judge has ordered White Rock city council to issue a development permit for a six-storey building after finding the city unlawfully rejected the project because of public opposition.

Justice Janice Dillon ruled Friday the city acted “in excess of its jurisdiction” when it refused to give Jacqueline and Robert Yearsley permission to build a condominium and commercial project on Victoria Avenue in the city’s waterfront business district.

The Yearsleys, who own Sausalito Bed and Breakfast, said they have been trying since 2005 to get city approval to redevelop the land.

Their plan met all the city’s bylaw and zoning requirements. But the city rejected the application, citing its design — saying it was too high and out of character with the neighbourhood — and public opposition to the project.

But the judge found the city went far beyond its scope in considering the project and didn’t give adequate reasons for rejecting it, noting “reliance on public opinion is not a relevant consideration if it is not linked to legitimate factors within the zoning bylaw or the [Official Community Plan].

“Council acted to refuse the application because of unspecified, vague stated concerns that are not referenced in the OCP, including implied concern about height, regardless that the proposed building was within the height requirements of zoning and OCP guidelines…,” the judge stated.

The Yearsleys said Sunday they were elated by the judgment, which wraps up a suit filed in June last year. City council will discuss the judgment in a closed meeting today, said Coun. Mary-Wade Anderson, who refused to comment on the court finding.

The city has, however, issued a statement saying a development permit will soon be issued for the property, which is set one block back from Marine Drive and is zoned commercial/residential.

“I’m feeling pretty vindicated,” said Robert Yearsley, a realtor who has owned the Victoria Avenue property for 20 years. “It’s a pretty major thing . . . I had no idea, having zoned property, that I’d face this kind of obstruction and unlawfulness. All my rights were trampled on.”

Yearsley claims that prior to the suit being filed, the city, which passed its Official Community Plan last September, tried to change the law and develop new guidelines in hopes of preventing the project. He said the city owns the property next door.

“What the councillors wanted to do was to try and override the bylaw by imposing their personal likes and dislikes,” he said. “This is hopefully going to be able to lead to a standard where developers and municipalities have no excuses when they evaluate a project.”

The proposed development would replace the existing bed-and-breakfast, which is two storeys.

Although the six-storey building is within the allowable height, most nearby buildings are three to four storeys. The project is allowable, however, because the property slopes upwards from the front street side toward the back. The development would consist of 804 square feet of commercial space with 19 residential units.

© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun

Comments are closed.