Surrey staff are exploring the idea that the city purchase up to 600 acres of property for parkland.
The idea was brought forward Monday night by Coun. Bob Bose, who wants the city to preserve some of the more ecologically sensitive areas identified in a green master plan.
Bose said the most important parts of the Ecosystem Management Study cannot be achieved within Surrey’s existing parkland acquisition program. He said that ”time is of the essence if these lands are not to be given up to development pressure.”
Bose wants the issue put to public referendum in time for the Nov. 19 civic election.
Coun. Barinder Rasode said Bose’s motion raised more questions than it provided answers.
Foremost on her mind was how much property would be required, where it is located, and who would be footing the bill for it?
In the latter case, she said, it would likely be the taxpayers. And if Bose’s estimates of between 200 and 600 acres are accurate, Rasode says residents would be facing a 20 per cent tax hike to pay for it. That would amount to about $260 for the owner of the average home in Surrey valued at $531,000.
The amount of the tax increase is an extremely rough estimate because it’s unknown how much land the city would be required to buy.
Rasode said she’s a bit bothered that the initiative is being brought forward so late, with very little time to educate council, let alone the public, which would ultimately be deciding the issue by referendum.
It’s expected a staff report will be back before council after the August break, likely by Sept. 12.
Bose said the notion of securing the land will allow Surrey to become a better place.
”Surrey is in a unique position to be a better kind of city,” Bose said. ”But we need a strategy and we need a mandate from the people.”