North Delta’s Firehall Centre for the Arts facing the wrecking ball

Developer proposing to buy the site from Delta and build two six-storey townhouses.

Many residents living near the North Delta Recreation Centre are unhappy about the possible erection of two apartment buildings on the property after a second public consultation on the project Tuesday evening.

Should the proposal be approved, the Corporation of Delta would sell a portion of the municipal land at 11489 84 Ave., including the Firehall Centre for the Arts, without tendering other proposals, to H. Sharma and Associates. The land will be merged with the property at 11503 84 Ave. and rezoned for multi-unit residential use.

The development firm plans to build two four-to-six-storey multi-family apartment buildings, three storeys higher than initially proposed and three-and-a-half storeys higher than what is currently allowed in the area, and two three-storey townhouse units on the same property.

Some North Deltans living in the immediate area contested that the project would create unwanted density and visual obstructions.

“I’m good at three storeys,” said area resident Sandy Lau. “Six storeys is insane.”

“If you make a decision to build something to a level consistent with residential expectations, why would you then allow a six-storey building in here? It doesn’t make sense.”

The revised proposal includes 136 dwellings in total, 32 more than what was originally put forward.

The money that the Corporation of Delta would receive from the land sale would go towards construction of a new arts and culture centre adjacent to the North Delta Recreation Centre. The Firehall Centre for Arts would be knocked down.

Lau said Delta shouldn’t “plow down a heritage site for this.”

Petitioners Kellie and Dave Phipps, Nicole Lalonde and Terry Sullivan, collected signatures and contact info from other attendees for the sake of having the Firehall Centre designated an official heritage site.

This, they hope, would at least prevent the Corporation from selling it off as planned.

“That would be a long process, but they wouldn’t be able to build,” said Kellie Phipps. “We’re directly affected by this.”

H. Sharma and Associates vice-president Satish Sharma said the Firehall Centre was “beyond repair” and that there is need for a new centre.

Sharma said that density concerns could be mitigated in part by removing parking from the street and keeping it underground. However, the revised proposal reduces available parking overall.

“Look at the density here,” he said, pointing at the satellite view of the area. “This is all parking lot. Look at the amenities in the area here. There’s a hockey rink, a curling rink, a gym here — you can’t ask for a better place to put density, to get people out of their cars, than this location here.”

Jimmy Ho, a planner with Delta’s community planning and development department, acknowledged that “there will be an impact on neighbours” and that the public’s concerns are realistic, but maintained that the project has its merits.

While he stopped short of saying that he is a proponent of the proposal, Ho did say, “For Delta, there is a benefit.”

As for the public’s input on Monday evening, Ho said that he had received generally good comments and that people liked the prospect of a new arts centre.

Ho added, however, that he heard “more comments about the concerns than the other aspects.”

Ho said a date has not yet been set for council to discuss the proposal.

Surrey North Delta Leader

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