Seniors’ facility proposal for trailer park site hits a snag

WHALLEY – A Surrey group celebrated a small victory Tuesday (June 16) after Surrey council sent back a proposal that would turn a Whalley trailer park into a $250-million seniors’ facility.


During Monday’s council meeting, Surrey Manufactured Home Owners Association (SMHOA) rallied outside city hall for protection and stronger rights as Park Mobile – a trailer park at 9525 King George Blvd. – is up for redevelopment.


The group says more than 100 residents will be affected.


"People have used their life savings to buy a home – now they are being forced out with nowhere to go and without adequate compensation – this is wrong," said SMHOA CEO Kandas Hufsmith.


SMHOA, formed in the 1960s, says there are approximately 1,529 manufactured homes in the city. Pad rentals range from $350 to $950, the group says, with an average annual increase of four to five per cent. This is squeezing out some renters, it says, as they can’t afford the ever-increasing cost.


SMHOA said this is why it is furious to see another trailer park be seemingly destined to see its end. It is calling on the city to increase compensation for tenants when parks are redeveloped and to create a standards of maintenance bylaw specifically for manufactured and mobile home parks.


On Monday, the development application was up for first and second reading but Surrey council instead voted to send it back to staff over relocation concerns.


"I really feel they listened to us," she Hufsmith after the meeting, adding residents felt the project was being "fast-tracked."


Coun. Very LeFranc told the Now she felt things were "really rushed."


"I wanted to make sure that staff were absolutely sure they had done everything with the relocation plan that they possibly could," she said.


"What’s happening is we have quite an old bylaw for manufactured homes, then we are guided by the provincial legislation but in the interim we want to make sure that any redevelopment that happens on manufactured home parks is handled in a really kind and ethical way."


LeFranc noted they are in an odd legislative area.


"They’re homeowners but they’re sitting on rented land," she said. "It’s always a bit grey."


LeFranc said city staff are looking at existing legislation and what the city can enact to help with the issues at play.


"We don’t know what form it’s going to take just yet," she noted. She hopes to receive a report soon.


"The difficult thing is what can we, as a city, legally do?


Compared to the B.C. legislation, they’re also covered under the Residential Tenancy Act. It’s just so complicated. As we let staff work their way through that complicated legislation, we’ll figure out where we need to step up as a city."


The city is being particularly careful with how it handles this redevelopment proposal, she stressed.


"It is setting sort of a standard as there’s upward development pressure on the King George corridor," she said.


WestStone Group’s proposal would see 422 senior’s units at various levels of care as well as a medical research centre and offices.


Bob Dominick, VP of WestStone Group, said the company has "zero intention" of making anyone homeless. He said the company supports the city’s decision and intends to go well beyond the relocation requirements to ensure everyone is adequately compensated and taken care of. "We’re not demons, we’re not developers trying to build luxury condominiums. We’re trying to put something into the health care system in Surrey that caters to the needs of the community," he said, noting Fraser Health projects Surrey’s senior population will grow by 70 per cent by 2024.


"The byproduct of that, of course, is having to care for the people we’re relocating. Many are just going without any question at all, but many will need help. We’re a very caring, concerned company. We’re not an evil developer."


Coun. Barbara Steele called the project "phenomenal" and much needed.


She added that those living in the park will also end up with much better living quarters.


"It’s going to be a win-win."

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