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Council pushes contentious South Surrey townhouse development forward

Third reading passes shortly after mid-afternoon public hearing
Surrey City gave third reading Monday (Aug. 8) – immediately after the public hearing – for a proposal to have a parcel of land in South Surrey re-designated from Mixed Employment to Multiple Residential, in order to develop 482 townhouses. (Google maps)

Surrey council has given third reading to a large-scale townhouse project in South Surrey, immediately following a public hearing Monday (Aug. 8) in which opponents had decried it as “wrong on so many levels,” and called consideration of the project, which had not received staff approval, “hypocritical.”

(A previous version of this story stated, incorrectly, that the project received second reading at the Aug. 8 meeting. It had, in fact received first and second readings on July 25.)

At issue was an application to amend the Official Community Plan to allow for the construction of 482 townhouses on a site that spans from Highway 99 to 168 Street, south of 12 Avenue.

The land in question sits directly across Highway 99 from the former Pacific Inn (Pink Palace), south of the Fergus Watershed Biodiversity Preserve and northwest of the Meridian Hills par 3 golf course.

The applicant was seeking to have the general land-use designation changed from Mixed Employment to Multiple Residential and to amend Major Employment Areas by removing the Mixed Employment designation for the subject site.

Ultimately, however, the voting block of Mayor Doug McCallum and Couns. Alison Patton, Doug Elford, Mandeep Nagra and Laurie Guerra held firm in approving third reading for the project over the objections, and negative votes, of Couns. Brenda Locke, Linda Annis, Steven Pettigrew and Jack Hundial.

The project was only one of a large number facing public hearings and votes on third reading during the marathon special meeting of council – including a five-highrise residential project for Surrey city centre which also passed second and third readings.

Before the meeting was even underway, Locke spoke in protest of the process.

“I want to state my dismay and actual anger that we are having a meeting in the middle of August,” she said. “This is a complete deviation from what is normal for the city of Surrey… I think it’s extraordinary behaviour to this council, but, more importantly, to the staff and the residents of Surrey – not only that we are having it in the middle of summer, but at one o’ clock in the afternoon, to be holding a public hearing at this time is quite inappropriate in my opinion.”

On the townhouse project, council heard from many – including Surrey Board of Trade president and CEO Anita Huberman – that taking away “employment lands” from Surrey for residential purposes, runs counter to previous arguments that Surrey is desperately short of such land.

READ ALSO: Metro Vancouver board endorses Surrey’s South Campbell Heights development plan

Environmentalists who spoke against the project noted that this presumed shortage had been used as a justification for Surrey’s pushing through the contentious industrial plan for the ecologically sensitive South Campbell Heights area at the Metro Vancouver level earlier this year.

Ironically, for the subject lands, they said, the Mixed Employment designation offered more protection to the Fergus Watershed Biodiversity Preserve than a large townhouse proposal which offered the suggestion that the preserve could be “opened up” as public parkland.

“Restore the classification of employment lands,” said Deb Jack of Surrey Environmental Partners. “That will give maximum protection to the preserve from the depredations that will occur from people who decide that is their neighbourhood park, and whose dogs and cats will invade that preserve.”

Robert Winsten, a member of the Ocean Park Beautification Committee, also spoke in opposition to the project.

“This proposal results in permanent disruption of the green infrastructure network and biodiversity area, with extreme removal – over 80 per cent – of the mature trees which are essential to meet the climate emergency,” he said.

“This does not meet city planning objectives… it violates the OCP and LAP. (It shows) disregard for previous planning results and inappropriate development,” he added.

“This proposal is not consistent with livable, walkable neighbourhood plans and is not mindful of children’s education. Other nearby lands have been clear-cut and have early development ongoing currently and have some transportation connections, and may be more appropriate for this type of increased residential development, but not this area.

“Approval of this proposal will add to the humiliating legacy of this mayor and council.”

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