ocp in denial

All this froth about building heights in the town centre is distracting from meaningful conversation. The OCP should be about principles, not prescriptions. I thought we learned this with the last one. If the policies are not backed up by defensible, logical purpose — if they are arbitrary — they are vulnerable to challenge.

Also, just as downtown Vancouver is only a small part of that city, so is the town centre in White Rock. There is redevelopment happening all throughout the city. The OCP should provide clearer guidance for that development too. But the process seems mired in obsession over heights of buildings in the town centre.

Losing sight of the big picture will cause more damage to the vision that high-rise haters are clinging to with white knuckles and blistered fingers than any height of building in the town centre.

Perhaps unwittingly, an OCP Task Force member stated the problem very well at their last meeting. She said that the fear of highrises comes from a pervasive belief that tall buildings will appear suddenly throughout the city, displacing their homes. As I’ve discussed many times before, fear prevents rational thought.

While many in the community admit that higher densities might well be appropriate in 20 years, they don’t want them now. And therein the problem: The OCP is perceived by many in the community as a five-year workplan rather than a long-range vision document.

If high-density development would be appropriate in the future, it should be anticipated in the Official Community Plan. Rather than put forth a plan in denial, conditions or stages of development could be included. For example, if the issue is too prickly right now, the OCP could say that the concept of transition zones should be considered in an OCP review after the town centre is 50% (or 75% or whatever) redeveloped.

Rather than gnash our teeth and spit at each other with accusations of opening flood gates or being elitist, let’s stay rational and work on points of consensus. And let’s be realistic about how White Rock will evolve over the next 25 to 50 years.

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