White Rock's popularity as a destination places it in a difficult position in ensuring provincial health orders are followed, Coun. David Chesney said, asking that staff obtain impartial input from both Fraser Health and the Ministry of Health before further measures are debated. (Aaron Hinks photo)

Pandemic crowding on waterfront vexes White Rock council

Overcrowding, extra garbage the downside of take-out business

White Rock appears to be a victim of its own success as a destination – particularly in the current pandemic era.

The potential health hazards of both overcrowding, and the spillover effect of overflowing garbage containers on Marine Drive and along the promenade, were top of mind for White Rock council members Monday night (April 12).

The traditional popularity of the city has been impacted by a rise in take-out food consumption – particularly since current health orders banned dine-in options, they noted.

And Coun. David Chesney told council that related overcrowding, amid rising numbers of COVID-19 cases provincewide, is a problem council will have to deal with sooner than later.

“What I observed this past weekend was very little social distancing outside of the take-out places; the pier, the promenade, the parking lots were chockablock full, very few people were wearing masks, all of the tables in Memorial Park were full of people.

READ ALSO: White Rock reopens promenade, increases waterfront parking

“That’s a wonderful thing – in normal times. But these are not normal times… I think we need to start talking about this now,” he said.

“But before we enter into a conversation, or a discussion that’s passionate for all of us, I’d like to have some outside input, giving us some direction for what (health officials) feel, for the safety of our community, we should be following.”

Council unanimously endorsed Chesney’s motion asking staff to “report what measures the City should put in place, if any, to help address keeping with health orders during the pandemic at the waterfront.”

At the same time, it responded to residents’ complaints of overflowing garbage containers and refuse scattered on the streets by backing a motion from Coun. Christopher Trevelyan that the city add an extra shift to regular waterfront garbage collection throughout the rest of 2021 and into 2022.

The $60,000 cost for the extra shift will come out of federal/provincial COVID-19 relief funding to the city, Trevelyan noted in the motion.

Chesney said that while all council members are “passionate” about supporting waterfront business, receiving independent advice from provincial health officials and Fraser Health would be valuable before debating further steps to be taken.

“This past Easter long week-end our waterfront parking was full; all the patios were packed and the massive lineups for take-out service have caused great concern for many of our taxpaying residents,” he noted in the preamble to his motion.

“We’re in a very difficult position,” he told council. “I would like to have staff talking with Fraser Health and the Ministry of Health to have an impartial overview and report back to us.

“Our waterfront has become a huge destination,” he added.

“If any council members were down there on the weekend, and even not just the weekend, the crowds, the parking lots were full, the parkade only had 40 to 50 spots. (It shows) the high demand of people wanting to come to our community; to get out of their community and come and get some fresh air and some fish and chips, or whatever they (want) to do.”

In his motion to add an extra shift to garbage collection on the waterfront, Trevelyan added the step should be reviewed on a year-to-year basis.

“We’ve all heard a lot of complaints about garbage on the promenade and Marine Drive, also the east side of the city out (toward) the Washington Avenue Grill,” Trevelyan noted, in introducing his motion.

He wondered whether the federal/provincial COVID-19 funding could be used for the purpose, “when you factor in that much of the extra garbage we’re seeing is due to take-out from restaurants due to COVID, and elimination of in-person dining.”

Chief administrative officer Guillermo Ferrero, engineering and municipal operations director Jim Gordon and financial services director Colleen Ponzini all said they believed the extra garbage collection would be a legitimate use of the funding.

In answer to a question from Trevelyan, Gordon said the contractor was doing all that was required under the terms of the contract, “but we’re not really keeping up right now.”

He suggested that adding a four-hour shift in the late afternoon and early evening would do much to lessen the accumulation of garbage being found first thing each morning.

“With an extra shift, we should be able to get that garbage before it sits all all night and gets spread out,” he said.

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