Proponents of a development eyed for the former site of a Catholic retreat centre in South Surrey have revised their plans to include a Francophone school on four acres of the property.
Porte Communities’ officials say they are optimistic the changes – which include the addition of nearly 100 condos in two buildings – will address concerns expressed by area residents when the project was first proposed nearly two years ago.
“I certainly hope so,” David Porte told Peace Arch News this week.
During a door-to-door campaign in early May to let people know about the plan and glean feedback, traffic was among concerns raised, Porte said, noting: “We have a little more work to do.”
Residents, however, say the revisions have only amplified their concerns.
“The developer is trying to force something into the community that the community doesn’t want,” Patrick Abadi, spokesperson for the Save Rosemary Heights group that formed in response to the original proposal, told PAN by email.
Porte first proposed to build 330 homes – 300 townhomes and 30 single-family homes – on the predominantly forested parcel at 3660 and 3690 152 St., a site overlooking the Nicomekl River.
Community concern led the developer to reduce the number of homes to 301 – 278 townhouses and 23 single-family homes – however, a moratorium on development in the neighbourhood, imposed by Surrey council last June while a comprehensive review of areas designated “suburban” was conducted, stalled further progress.
City staff recommended in March that applications that had been put on hold be allowed to proceed to council for consideration, and area planning and development south manager Ron Hintsche confirmed Wednesday that the city is aware of Porte’s latest revisions.
“At this point in time, there is no set date for this project to proceed to council for consideration,” Hintsche said by email. “City staff will be discussing the next steps with the proponent, based on the feedback from the neighbourhood on the revised proposal.”
The proposed school, Hintsche noted, is with School District 93, Conseil Scolaire Francophone. He said the site, currently designated institutional, would not require rezoning for the school.
Porte told PAN that the school component was added following feedback from the neighbourhood and community regarding concerns the previous plans would make the longstanding issue of overcrowding in the area schools worse.
The proposed school would have capacity for between 200 and 250 students.
Save Rosemary Heights members disagree the additional capacity would help alleviate pressures on local schools. A statement on the group’s website points to restrictions that limit enrolment at the proposed school to students whose families’ first language is French.
“Very few neighbourhood families would qualify to attend this school, so it does not provide any solution to the current school overcrowding issue,” a “Porte’s Flyer vs. The Facts” statement on the group’s website states.
Porte acknowledged the school “is for a specific population… but that population is in the school system now.”
“It creates seats” elsewhere, he said.
Residents say the addition of twice-daily school-bus traffic adds a new aspect to traffic concerns.
Porte noted a “huge component of the property” would be left in its natural state.