Delta council puts off vote over sale of Firehall Centre for the Arts

Neighbours are divided over proposal to build 136 housing units next to the North Delta Recreation Centre.

A marathon public hearing for a bold proposal to turn a community landmark into more housing density in the heart of North Delta produced a spirited discussion over the project’s merits but no vote on whether it will be approved.

H. Sharma & Associates Inc. wants to buy the Firehall Centre for the Arts at 11489 84th Ave. from the city for their proposed Delta Gardens development. The site, adjacent to the North Delta Recreation Centre, would then be consolidated with two neighbouring properties the developers own and turned it into 136 apartment and town- home units.

The meeting lasted for over four hours and was adjourned just after 10 P.M. Council decided it wouldn’t be prudent to move forward with a vote on the project, instead putting it off until Monday’s regular council meeting.

“With a project this size, each one of us want to explain why our decision is the decision it is,” said Coun. Sylvia Bishop. “That could easily extend this meeting and I have personally have not read all of the on-table letters, but that can be done for next Monday.”

According to city staff, Delta would receive approximately $4.4 million dollars which would then be put towards a new art centre with a theatre and gallery spaces. Council has the right to sell public land if it provides sufficient notices to the public of its intention to do so.

Delta council hears from residents about the proposed sale of the Firehall Centre for the Arts and development of 136 apartment and townhouse units on the site. Photo credit: Owen Munro

Delta council hears from residents about the proposed sale of the Firehall Centre for the Arts and development of 136 apartment and townhouse units on the site. Photo credit: Owen Munro

Over 100 people were at the hearing at the North Delta Recreation Centre and more than 40 speakers took their turn before council. While some praised the developer for adding to the housing supply in North Delta, others voiced concerns over the environmental impact and traffic going down 84 Avenue. Some expressed opposition to the project, saying it doesn’t belong in a neighbourhood that is dominated by single-family homes.

Delta Gardens would be Bernice Walker’s new neighbour, and she isn’t thrilled about it. She received arguably the biggest applause of the night for her passionate defence of the community as currently constructed.

“They all have money to gain in it, they’re all in it for money and they’re not in it for the residents of North Delta,” Walker said. “I didn’t pay taxes for 40 years to see you sell a piece of public land.”

Walker said she wants a new theatre to go into the space the arts centre currently occupies and was upset public land could be sold off to the “next highest bidder.”

“Everybody, wake up! 136 units and 25 parking spaces? I think we’ll have to draw lots to see who can have company over that night,” she said.

Architectural renderings of the proposed housing that would replace the Firehall Centre for the Arts.Delta Gardens doesn’t currently meet the Official Community Plan designation or the North Delta Area Plan, and resident Pete Willows pushed council to consider that plan when making its decision on the development. He said it has done wonderful things for the community in the past, such as the work with the Cougar Creek Streamkeepers, but warned it needs to take into careful consideration the people most affected.

“Is the community plan building six storeys next to our residential community centre? I don’t think so,” Willows said. “Give it good thought and think about the environmental impact.”

Staff say they don’t believe there will be an environmental impact to the land, and that the developers have worked with them every step of the way with them to ensure standards of quality are met.

Council will vote on the project on Monday, Feb. 6.

 

Surrey North Delta Leader

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