A huge tract of green space is set to be paved for residential development, causing the city’s environmental watchdog to immediately call for a halt to the plan.
The city is preparing the Neighbourhood Concept Plan (NCP) for Grandview Heights Area #4, which includes 487 acres of property in South Surrey.
The neighbourhood abuts Redwood Park to the South, 176 Street to the west, angles to 32 Avenue to the north and to 184 Street to the east.
The city is planning residential development, along with some multi-family residential, to make room for 8,000 to 9,000 people.
The reaction from the city’s Environmental Advisory Committee (EAC) was strong and swift. The committee indicated the NCP steamrolls highly sensitive ecological areas identified in the city’s new Ecological Management Study (EMS), an overarching plan for Surrey’s environmental assets.
“If there is any credibility to the EMS then this development should not happen,” the committee said in the minutes of its May 25 meeting. “This NCP is 100 per cent opposite to the EMS.”
EAC Chair Al Schultze told The Leader Tuesday the NCP being considered for the area will ruin beautiful second-growth trees and wildlife habitat.
“The biggest concern is there’s a huge area with a second-growth forest that’s about 80 years old,” Schultze said. “Most of that will be gone according to the three plans that they have for it. And we’d like to mitigate that damage to save more forest.”
That forest, he said, is about the size of Redwood Park.
The EAC passed a motion to request an audience with council as soon as possible. At the following meeting, council directed the committee to staff and the Citizens Advisory Committee.
In a letter to council Monday, the EAC expressed its umbrage at being rebuffed by council.
“On behalf of the members of the city’s Environmental Advisory Committee, we would like to express our surprise, disappointment and frustration with council’s recent decision to not hear a delegation from our committee regarding the EMS and the Grandview (NCP4) developments,” EAC Chair Al Schulze wrote in a letter to council June 23. “We would like to point out that we have not abused the privilege of speaking directly to council, only having made this request three times in the past two years.”
Mayor Dianne Watts said Tuesday the group has not been declined an audience with council, pointing out the process is in the early stages. Staff are engaging in public consultation, she said, adding it’s premature to hear from the EAC. Typically, the council representative would bring the issues before council, she said.
Coun. Bob Bose, who sits on the EAC, said the committee has become discouraged.
“There’s an overwhelming frustration that development always trumps important environmental issues,” Bose said.
He said the NCP4 is distant from city services, meaning a huge investment in infrastructure, such as sewer and water.
“The only way they can make it financially viable is to develop every last square foot of the area,” Bose said. “The best and highest use for that area is to leave it alone.”
Also see The Leader’s editorial.