Crown, community corrections moving into old city hall

NEWTON – Surrey’s old city hall will be home to Crown counsel and community corrections, after the provincial government signed a 10-year lease for part of the space.

Council approved the agreement Monday.

The lease is for 45,000 square feet of the building at a rate of $565,000 a year for the first five years. The deal is for an initial 10-year term, with options to renew up to 2036.

Crown counsel will move from the Surrey courthouse to the former city hall as part of a $3.4-million expansion project that will more than double its office space.

Attorney General and Minister of Justice Suzanne Anton said in a statement the project fits with B.C.’s long-term plans for court expansion in Surrey.

The Lower Fraser Valley Court expansion plan calls for 29 new courtrooms by 2033, eight of which are to be in Surrey. Expansion of Surrey’s provincial courthouse was identified in the plan as the highest priority project.

Gerry McKinnon, acting general manager of engineering for the city, said when it comes to community corrections, the city has been told the matters being dealt with in the space will be “low risk,” such as bail orders or conditional sentence orders.

“They’re deemed by the courts to not possess a significant risk for the safety of the community,” he said, adding the city agreed upon this type of risk level for the space, and expects the city would be consulted if that were to change.

The city hopes the RCMP will lease the remainder of the old city hall, McKinnon said, which includes the south and west towers, as well as the north annex. But the city is also in discussions with universities, institutes, agencies, foundation and other public and private sector parties in relation to a justice precinct and/or campus at the facility.

Local resident Sonya Marcinkowska, of the Panorama Neighbourhood Association, said she was startled to learn Monday that a corporate report seeking approval for the lease was set to go before council that very night.

“We had no information,” she said. “It was completely vague other than community corrections. What does that mean? What do they do?” She has concerns about what community corrections operations will be going into the old city hall.

“It seems this is going to be a place for not-so-violent offenders… but are there going to be late night programs? Are we going to have people with specific issues walking out at night? I certainly have a lot of questions that are unanswered.”

To Marcinkowska, the consultation process was flawed. “I think the issue here is that the city pulled a fast one on the community. We’re just gathering the facts after the fact.”

Marcinkowska says the Newton Town Centre and Panorama areas have taken in a lot of social services. While she sees the practicality in putting justice services together, she has concerns about how concentrated the area is becoming.

“It’s a block away from a park, it’s a block away from residential, so there’s definitely some concerns. Nothing major has happened… but we think it’s lining up to possibly head that way.” With files from Jacob Zinn

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