A City Council that works for everyone… not just a few.
White Rock’s small businesses find themselves at a crossroads. Uncoordinated development along both Johnston Road and Marine Drive are causing these establishments to hemorrhage money, despite loyal followings that stretch back decades. Some have already closed. Others wonder how much longer they can survive.
The loss of Hillcrest Plaza as a focal point for uptown shopping was a severe blow. Only a few businesses found new homes elsewhere in White Rock. Those that did so paid out of pocket for relocation expenses. None are seeing the kind of revenue they once did at the former heavily trafficked shopping hub, a situation made worse by ongoing construction in the area. This situation will soon be repeated by the businesses and customers of Royal Plaza, which is scheduled for closure in October to make room for another 27 storey tower.
More high-rises are not the answer. While developers tout increased retail footprints in their projects, the reality is that only deep-pocketed national and international chains will be able to afford those rents. The unique individual shops that once thrived here will be replaced by chains that can be found anywhere else: Morgan Crossing, Guildford, Willowbrook.
The situation is no better along White Rock’s waterfront. Marine Drive restaurants and shops on the West Beach side are currently sandwiched between construction of an ill-conceived parkade and the delayed, overbudget Memorial Park project at the foot of the pier. The loss of parking and direct beach access, coupled with traffic delays for heavy trucks, comes at the peak of tourist season, which these businesses rely on to ride out the lean winter months.
The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) estimates construction hurts the bottom line of a small business by an average of $100,000. Aaron Aerts, an economist with the CFIB, said the losses hit all businesses equally, even those supportive of development. “Even those that weren’t directly impacted can see that they’re next,” Aerts said.
In a recent national survey, the CFIB discovered that 41% of local businesses have been disrupted by construction projects, primarily from traffic, dust, debris or noise levels, as well as by difficulty experienced by customers accessing storefronts or finding parking.
Municipal development and infrastructure improvement projects often exceed their budgets and scope, with local businesses bookended as a consequence with a loss of revenue and increased property taxes. Vancouver’s Canada Line cost businesses along the Cambie Street corridor an average of $112,000 according to the CFIB report. Victoria’s recent Johnston Street Bridge project, which ran three years past its deadline, had a similar effect.
Local businesses find themselves literally with their backs to the wall at times like this. Besides the obvious setbacks from the projects themselves, the CFIB pointed to no business interruption insurance and often no proper notice from the municipality as compounding the difficulty businesses face in surviving these disruptions.
It doesn’t need to be this way. Look no further than Fort Langley, a similar community successfully managing a tremendous recent growth spurt. Low-rise development, carefully planned to maintain the area’s heritage, sprouted around a family-owned supermarket. Fort Langley successfully brings residents and visitors together in a frontier-themed area that’s densely packed with thriving local business.
Democracy Direct understands that small businesses are fundamental to White Rock’s economic health and our candidates will do everything possible to listen to, and act on behalf of, small business owners and will ensure that any future developments in White Rock will attend to their needs.
Democracy Direct White Rock objectives:
Partner with White Rock’s business community to ensure they are stakeholders in these projects, so their input in timing and location can be included;
Develop a developer funded program to help businesses avoid closure and relocate within White Rock;
Consider tax relief for White Rock’s businesses, such as repealing the “patio tax”;
Appoint a business liaison officer who, among other duties, would be responsible for tracking the condition of White Rock’s infrastructure and letting business know well in advance, through a five-year capital investment plan, what projects could impact their area;
Mandate designated areas for construction workers to park, with the developer then shuttling them to and from the site every day.