NEIGHBOURHOODS: Grandview Heights fights to keep it rural

NEIGHBOURHOODS: Grandview Heights fights to keep it rural

EDITOR’S NOTE: From Panorama Ridge to Tynehead to East Clayton, Surrey has become home to practically dozens of cities within cities.

With more than half a million people living in Surrey, each of these communities has created its own identity.

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Recognizing that every one is unique, both in their character and in the challenges they face, our series looks at each area’s struggles and triumphs.

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GRANDVIEW HEIGHTS — While some areas of Grandview Heights have been developed and densified, pockets of acreage properties remain.

Take Country Woods for example, a subdivision of 92 homes from 28th to 29th avenues, and from 176th to 172nd streets.

Tall trees, and lots of them. Mostly oneacre properties. Old-style mail boxes at the ends of long driveways. Plenty of wildlife including deer, ducks and woodpeckers.

All in all, it’s quiet and, as its name suggests, it’s country.

This small community is within "Grandview 5," according to city plans, an area that does not yet have a Neighbourhood Concept Plan.

In the Grandview Heights General Land Use Plan from 2005 it states development will not proceed until a NCP has been "completed through a public consultation process, and has been approved by Council."

An application before Surrey council at a public hearing on April 28 has some locals crying foul, worried that it may cause development to creep into their quiet suburb.

Six property owners are applying to the city to have their land rezoned from suburban to urban to allow for subdivision into 38 single-family lots. The property owners have been working with the city for more than three years, and say they’ve have had no luck selling their long, narrow properties due to their configuration.

The residents, many of whom are now elderly and can’t keep up the large properties, feel as though they are in limbo – unable to keep up their homes, yet unable to sell.

A spokesperson for the owners was contacted and declined comment.

These lots are directly adjacent to Morgan Heights on 164th Street, a dense community that’s been built in recent years.

Gary Cameron, who lives near the sites in question, is against the city approving rezoning before doing an NCP.

"Homeowners in the area between 164th and 168th streets and 26th and 28th avenues have been told for years that development would not happen without a Neighbourhood Concept Plan, and some of us have made plans based on that assurance," he said.

At the public hearing Cameron presented Surrey council with a petition of 87 neighbours against the rezoning. He had gone door-to-door in his neighbourhood gauging community support.

If approved, Cameron fears it would be the "tip of the iceberg," and believes developers would see this as an invitation to begin building further into the area.

He says he bought his home there because of the privacy, the peace and quiet, and the trees. If development crept in, all of that would be lost, Cameron said.

"We don’t want to be Morgan Heights," he said adding, "Can you give us some assurance that you’re not going to destroy the neighbourhood by putting the developers onto us? Because that’s the expectation."

Michael Proskow, another Grandview 5 resident who lives in the nearby Country Woods area, agrees with Cameron.

Proskow says the city is ignoring its own policies if it allows development to happen in the area before first creating an NCP.

Surrey’s new Official Community Plan specifies that land development applications for rezoning, development permits or subdivisions are to be received and processed "only after Stage 1 of a Neighbourhood Concept Plan is approved."

"We weren’t saying then and we aren’t now, saying we are for or against anything, we just simply want you to follow your own darn rules," Proskow said. "If the city advances this redevelopment application, it will put our (Country Woods) residents’ association on a warfooting with city council. We’d be more than happy to just be left alone out here."

Coun. Judy Villeneuve sympathizes with both sides – the residents worried about development creeping in and the residents who feel trapped on their properties.

She noted how long and how hard the six property owners have worked to be able to sell their properties, and said she understands how frustrating a situation it must be.

And she also understands why some residents are concerned about this being the beginning of development entering the area.

"It’s a very, very beautiful area that’s been established for quite a while," Villeneuve said. "The neighbourhood feels that they need a say and an assurance that their properties are going to be protected, and also that lifestyle."

After the public hearing on April 28, city council requested staff do a Local Area Plan for the zone. Villeneuve noted that an NCP encourages development, which she doesn’t think the community is after.

"I think we’ll have a positive outcome with some better buy-in from the neighbourhood," Villeneuve said of the plan underway.

Surrey’s community planning manager Don Luymes said a "Local Area Plan" is the incorrect terminology for the type of plan that will be done.

"A Local Area Plan is a different animal but that is the phrase that’s being thrown around. I think what council was directing staff to do was to do a little infill plan," he said.

Luymes said the six properties are "a bit orphaned" and the city should have perhaps included them in Grandview 1 – Morgan Heights – which the properties are adjacent to on 164th Avenue.

"Hindsight is 20/20. What we maybe should have done, way back when, is drawn the line for 1 that included these properties because frankly, the configuration of the properties and the age and condition of the homes is such that redevelopment could have been anticipated, for sure."

Luymes said the plan underway will limit development further into Grandview 5 and like Villeneuve, is confident it will reassure neighbours that their area will remain untouched. The reality is, subdivisions like Country Woods aren’t built anymore, Luymes noted.

"That’s why we hope to retain them…. Will new development be of that nature? No, it won’t be, simply because of affordability and the viability of development," he said.

Luymes said the city’s planning challenge will be ensuring there is proper transition between newer urban and established suburban areas.

"I think that’s the main concern of some of the existing residents who worry -‘What will the impact of new urban development will be on my property and my quality of life?’" Grandview 5 is roughly bound by 28th Avenue and 20th Avenue, from 176th Street to 164th and 168th avenues.


David Brown arrived in Surrey from Ontario via Iowa, San Francisco and Victoria in 1878, and took up residence at the corner of the Clover Valley and North Bluff Roads (176th Street and 16th Avenue). He became the postmaster for Hall’s Prairie at an annual salary of $25. His sons Peter and David were avid tree collectors and donated the land for what is now Redwood Park.Grandview Heights served as a logging region in the community’s early years.

The Royal City Planing Mills established an operation east of Elgin near the Nicomekl River to log the areas south of the Kensington Prairie. In 1886, a logging railway was built east through Grandview Heights. At the west end of the line, logs were dumped into a ditch and floated into the Nicomekl River. In 1886, the RCPM bought the famous steam locomotive "Old Curly" from the CPR. Originally used in the construction of the San Francisco seawall, the locomotive hauled timber along the logging railway and continued to be used in Surrey until 1894.

When the New Westminster and Southern Railway was completed in 1891, the logging railway was extended to join it at a point east of Hall’s Prairie Road. Consequently, the Nicomekl River was abandoned and the logs were railed to Port Kells and boomed in the Fraser. The area remained sparsely populated for quite some time, and the region has remained largely agricultural.

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