ELECTION: What’s to be done with the Cloverdale fairgrounds?

SURREY — An all-candidates meeting held Tuesday night (Oct. 28) at the historic Shannon Hall on Cloverdale Fairgrounds yielded answers from council hopefuls regarding their vision for the site’s redevelopment.

Candidates had wildly varying takes on what to do with fairgrounds, a property with a variety of buildings and venues, and home to the Cloverdale Rodeo since 1938.

Once the site for blue-ribbon cattle, it is now popular for flea market Sundays, professional wrestling shows and this past summer the Surrey Night Market debuted there, with plans to continue and grow bigger in future years.

The mayoral hopefuls

Independent mayoral candidate John Wolanski would bring in a new ice rink and an indoor pool similar to that in Fleetwood.

“The people deserve it,” he said.

Grant Rice, another independent seeking the mayor’s chair, asked why the new Cloverdale rec centre didn’t include a pool. He added the city should plan facilities with the school district for both student and public use.

One Surrey mayoral contender Barinder Rasode committed to building a new trade centre on the site, and either a pool or an ice rink – dependent on community feedback.

But Surrey First’s mayoral candidate Linda Hepner said Rasode seems to have forgotten that the city has twice gone to the private sector for partnership, but noted none stepped forward. She said the city would have been looking at a $4 million loss for 10 years in proposed projects, which would total $40 million.

Hepner said she embraces the idea of keeping the fairgrounds together and redeveloping it, but it has to be “economically viable.”

Former mayor Doug McCallum, leading the Safe Surrey Coalition, said “it’s time for action” at the fairgrounds. He said new facilities are needed at the site, adding he supports a trade centre or a hotel.

Independent John Edwards said he wants a convention centre – not a trade centre – for the site, noting there are 19 across Canada. He believes such a facility would drive the local economy and put Surrey on the “international map.”

What do council candidates think?

One Surrey’s Mike Bose, a hockey coach for years, said the current Cloverdale rink was built in 1971 and there were originally plans to twin it. That never happened, he said, adding the area has since fallen behind. He wants to see a second, and possibly third, sheet of ice in the area.

Bose said a trade or convention centre would be a good use of the site, noting Surrey could capitalize on business turned away from Abbotsford’s Tradex.

Safe Surrey’s Laurie Guerra noted her team’s plan to revamp the parks and recreation budget at the city, but said the fairgrounds would be up to community feedback.

Guerra added this issue alone is why she’s in favour of a ward system for civic government, so the area would have a representative at the table specifically working for them.

Surrey First’s Barbara Steele said the city has set up a task force to bring stakeholders together to look at the best use of the property, but wouldn’t proceed until the city can financially support it.

Teammate Bruce Hayne said Rasode plans to sell city land to fund her plan.

“We can’t mortgage our future like that,” he said.

Tom Gill, also with Surrey First, said the 137-acre site is a “jewel,” adding, “we want to keep this for our future.”

Brian Young, with One Surrey, is president of the Cloverdale Chamber of Commerce. He said the community has been left behind and criticized Surrey First’s spending on the new city hall. One Surrey’s plan, he said, wouldn’t put the city in debt to build.

Surrey First’s Judy Villeneuve noted a variety of completed projects in Cloverdale, including the youth park, phase one of Surrey Museum and the Surrey Animal Resource Centre.

Independent Cliff Blair, unlike any other candidates, wanted to make the fairgrounds a “destination theme park.”

The theme park that never was

Though McCallum didn’t mention that use for the site, he did entertain the idea of a theme park in Surrey back in 1998. Officials from international amusement company Landmark Entertainment Group toured Surrey that year, and considered developing the 1,000-acre Stokes Pit and auto-wrecking yards in Bridgeview. The company was behind the $110-million Jurassic Park: The Ride at Universal Studios. The $500-million theme park and resort would have been the largest in Western Canada and the Pacific Northwest.

A Surrey location, if chosen, was to also serve as the new home the PNE.

McCallum told the company he would fast-track the theme park development, holding emergency council meetings if necessary.

Protestors emerged, saying they wanted to see the rural, tranquil feel of the Stokes Pit remain, noting the site’s close proximity to the Agricultural Land Reserve. To that, McCallum said he would ensure buffers were in place, if Surrey were selected. It was not.

Other Cloverdale issues

As well as the future of the fairgrounds, candidates were asked if they support phase two and three of the Surrey Museum by 2015, even without support from higher levels of government.

Hepner said her team will start phase two in 2015, as outlined in their platform. All other mayoral candidates said they too support the museum’s expansion.

Another Cloverdale-specific issue tackled was what to do with the congested Clayton community, widely believed to be lacking in parking, transit and school infrastructure, as well as the abundance of illegal suites.

Many responses called for increased bylaw enforcement in the area and the need for rapid transit and more schools.

Rice said “if the province won’t supply schools, stop developing.”

Hepner noted the city has introduced larger zones, adding it takes time to transition people out of illegal suites.

Independent council candidate Nav Dhanoya would like to introduce parking permits in the area.

Twitter: @amyreid87


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