It’s back to the drawing board for the Surrey Food Bank after its proposal for a new location in Guildford was referred back to staff.
During council’s land use meeting on Monday (July 8), council unanimously approved staff’s recommendation to refer the development proposal back to staff to find an alternative site for the Surrey Food Bank.
The Anglican Parish of the Church of Epiphany and the Surrey Food Bank were proposing the development of a new roughly 20,000-sq.-ft. food bank and a new church, located at 10553 148 St.
There was no discussion from council about the decision.
“It was literally three years of our lives over in three seconds,” said Feezah Jaffer, executive director of the Surrey Food Bank.
The staff rationale for the recommendation, according to the planning and development report, was that “although the proposed food bank offers tremendous benefit” to the city, the location doesn’t fit with the city’s land use planning and policy framework.
The report says the site is currently designated as “Urban” in the Official Community Plan, but the “proposed commercial use and warehouse form” of the development “raises interface concerns with existing single family dwellings to the north and west and existing multiple residential developments to the south, across 105A Avenue.”
Jaffer said she was aware of the staff recommendation before attending the July 8 meeting, but she said there was hope that someone from the food bank would be able to “petition” council again that this was an ideal location.
She said the Guildford site would have been “a good fit” since it’s close to where clients live, adding there is support from the greater community.
Jaffer said she hoped council would at least let the proposal go to first or second reading. She said she went into the meeting with “hope and the best of intentions.”
Since Monday’s decision from council, Jaffer said the food bank has split “amicably” with the church.
“The church has been very supportive. They’ve been wonderful partners. It’s been kind of an uphill battle, I think, with the city because there’s been opposition from day one,” she said.
Jaffer said the proposal had “good feedback” from the neighbourhood, but there was opposition from direct neighbours, “like across the street and within a very limited radius.”
“The majority of the neighbourhood was supportive because a lot of our clients live there and they know the church.”
Looking forward, though, Jaffer said there is “light at the end of the tunnel.”
“We do have a back-up building that we’re still in negotiations for,” said Jaffer, adding that it’s in Newton, along the King George Boulevard corridor.
The food bank, she said, was approached by a private entity for the back-up plan.
“Hopefully this back up will go through and we will go from there and we will have the opportunity to share that with our community, where we’re going, what the plans our, how we can make this work, how we can expand our programming, all that stuff,” Jaffer said.
With the needs of its clientele, she said, the food bank needs at least 18 to 20,000-sq.-ft. of space for programming and distribution.
Asked if possibly moving into a Newton location would be as long of a process as the proposal for Guildford, Jaffer said, “No, it will be very fast.
“It was a very long process, very frustrating at times, but I think the lessons that we’ve learned were very positive… I think going forward we have that community spirit. So wherever we go, I think, people will support us and we will in turn support our community.”
The food bank currently operates out of a 8,300-sq.-ft. warehouse in Whalley with a fleet of five vehicles, a lift truck, 400 active volunteers and a core staff of 15 people. It currently distributes about 2,000 food hampers each week.