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The fight for Grandview's trees in South Surrey isn't over


GRANDVIEW — Sybil Rowe is not slowing down in her fight to save trees in Grandview Heights.

In January, she embarked upon a mission to save some of the area's trees, collecting some 730 signatures.

Her petition asked for the city for two things: to dedicate an old horse farm on 168th Street as a park and for heritage designation for majestic evergreens that frame either side of 168th Street, from 24th to 32nd Avenues.

After the parks, recreation and sport tourism committee has recommended the city dedicate the park, it looks like she won that fight. A decision on heritage designation for the other trees has not been made, but engineering will be commissioning a study looking at impacts of widening the road in the future to see if offsetting the road centre line and adjustments to the boulevard can help save the trees.

But Rowe is not stopping there. She is also fighting for seven douglas firs at the top of 164th Street on a property up for redevelopment.

Originally, the application, at 2325 164th St., proposed to remove all of the 22 mature trees on the site and replant 91.

Rowe recognizes these are just seven trees, but says to her they were "symbolic" in her fight for green in the neighbourhood.

"It was just a little win, but they meant the earth to me. They were like a symbol of everything else that was going to come."

But three may be on the chopping block.

Rowe said she feels "betrayed" because she was under the impression that all seven trees were to stay based on her talks with the city - until she received a call from staff last week alerting her some may fall.

"I see an alarming pattern here. High density is going through Grandview Heights. It's mowing down everything in sight. Everything is going to disappear."

Rowe said she's not against development but is "deadly" against the high density she sees creeping into the area.

"The purpose of high density, initially, is to prevent urban sprawl. But what we have got, because there are people out there with a heck of a lot of money, we are having high-density sprawl."

She calls on the city to "stop what they're doing" and recognize Grandview Heights is an "exquisite area that must be saved."

Jaime Boan, Surrey's transportation manager, said various staff have had discussions with Rowe, as well as the developer, to try to save the seven trees.

While Rowe was under the impression all seven were to be saved, Boan said the city's intent has been to save as many as possible.

Four are being saved, he noted, while the fate of the other three is still being reviewed.

The city believes the developer can save one tree by adjusting servicing. Another may have to go, as it looks like it is on land where a building is set to go. And a third may have to come down, as it's on a street corner and the city believes the tree may create safety issues by blocking drivers' views of pedestrians using an adjacent sidewalk.

While Rowe was worried she'd see the trees falling last week, Boan said that wouldn't be the case. "We've instructed the developer not to be touching any of those trees until we've fully resolved the issue."

Regardless of the decision, Boan said Rowe's efforts will result in at least four of the trees being saved.

"To me, the entire review and (Rowe) bringing it up to our attention has all been a positive because we are going to be able to save at least four and hopefully as many as six of them."

Despite feeling blue that she may be losing some of the trees she's fighting for, she said there was "a little victory" July 7 when council unanimously voted to send another Grandview area application back to staff, in light of opposition to it.

The application is for two parcels of land: 2552 and 2580 164th St. The developer wants to subdivide into seven large and 24 small single-family lots. The city received approximately 20 emails and letters from 11 households concerned about the proposal's density, impact on road infrastructure and more.

And at a public information meeting in April, a petition signed by 14 households was submitted that asked for things such as a decrease in density in order to more closely mirror nearby residential.

There are 40 protected trees on the site and the proposal calls for the removal of 38, and to replant 45. Since the city's ratio requires a total of 128 trees be replaced, the 83 deficit would mean the developer would have to contribute $24,900 to the city's Green City Fund.

Coun. Judy Villeneuve said there was a lot of neighbourhood opposition to the interface with the application.

"We're going to try to resolve it," she said. "People make investments and we try to be fair, and we also want to make sure long-term residents are on board."

For Rowe, council voting to send the application back to staff means they are listening.

"Well it was wonderful because somehow or another... it's like a coin is dropping," Rowe said Tuesday after the meeting. "The overwhelming feeling I got last night was that they heard us, they're getting the message: We don't like what they're doing."