Surrey.ca image                                The City of Surrey hosted an open house last month to gather input for a Semiahmoo Town Centre plan update.

Surrey.ca image The City of Surrey hosted an open house last month to gather input for a Semiahmoo Town Centre plan update.

300-plus weigh in on future of Semiahmoo Town Centre

Council expected to see draft plan next winter

The latest opportunity to weigh in on the future of the Semiahmoo Town Centre drew more than 300 people to the South Surrey Arts & Recreation Centre.

Held Feb. 28, the open house was organized to “bring you up to date on where we are in the process” of developing a land-use plan that will guide growth in the community, according to display boards shared on the City of Surrey’s webpage.

The plan area extends from 16 Avenue north to 24 Avenue, and from Martin Drive to Earl Marriott Secondary – a total study area of 136 hectares.

City planner Steve MacIntyre told Peace Arch News Wednesday (March 13) that comments from open-house attendees related to density, transportation, housing, parks and schools; and included a number focused on the need for senior-oriented amenities, accessible and adaptable housing, and transit and public-realm improvements such as more benches, sidewalks and wheelchairs ramps.

A full summary of survey results from the open house is anticipated to be posted to surrey.ca in the next two weeks.

The process of updating the Semiahmoo Town Centre Plan began in July 2004, to address “changing market conditions and increasing development pressure.” Ongoing studies and stakeholder meetings over the years led to the adoption of a 2012 interim plan.

At that time, some Peninsula residents expressed concern with the potential for highrises and increased density.

READ MORE: Spectre of South Surrey highrise plan still looms

Display boards shared at the open house confirm the existing plan permits higher densities and buildings of up to 20-plus storeys along the southern portion of 152 Street, “to support a mixed-use main street and public transit.”

It also envisions the creation of new public plazas on 152 Street, at 16 and 19 Avenues.

Workshops were held last year regarding extending the Town Centre boundary east to EMS and north to 24 Avenue, to accommodate an expanded medical district along 16 Avenue and help prepare for B-Line bus services along 152 Street.

In surveys conducted at that time, respondents identified tree- and green-space preservation, enhanced walkability and traffic congestion as among key concerns.

At last month’s open house, attendees were asked for suggestions on how to accommodate a growing population of aging seniors while making room for young families; how to improve the area’s transportation network; and, what is missing in Semiahmoo Town Centre.

The questions were accompanied by statistics, including that 35 per cent of the area’s population is older than 65 and that the majority of housing is apartments and single-family homes. As well, that a performing arts centre and art gallery remains part of the vision for Semiahmoo.

The latter was a component of a two-tower residential development that was proposed six years ago for the corner of 152 Street and 19 Avenue.

Described as presenting “tremendous opportunities for the South Surrey community at large,” it was met with mixed reviews by the public – with attitudes split between those excited about the potential of the proposed amenities and those wary of the impact of the two towers.

In February 2014, a public hearing on the development was put on hold pending submission of an amended plan.

READ MORE: Divided views over arts-centre towers proposed for South Surrey

READ MORE: South Surrey arts-towers proposal to be revamped

MacIntyre told PAN Wednesday that the performing arts centre is “highlighted as an ongoing desire” in the city’s 2018 Parks, Recreation & Culture Strategic Plan.

“However it’s unlikely to be realized at that location,” he said by email.

Noting the topic came up “several times” at the open house, MacIntyre said the city “will continue to pursue opportunities that might come up to accommodate such a facility in the town centre.”

It’s anticipated the Stage 1 draft plan will be presented to council this coming winter. If approved, work on Stage 2 is to get underway.

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