Surrey councillors on the Metro board – (from left) Tom Gill, Bruce Hayne, Barbara Steele and Mike Starchuk – at the public hearing held June 13 regarding the Hazelmere Valley proposal. (Tracy Holmes photo)

Chaotic Metro Vancouver vote rejects Hazelmere Valley development

Accusation of ‘improper’ behaviour, after Surrey Coun. Starchuk notes receipt of ‘new information’

Metro Vancouver’s board of directors has voted against an amendment bylaw that would have facilitated a 145-home subdivision in the Hazelmere Valley.

Friday’s decision followed a nearly two-hour discussion that morning that included a suggestion by Surrey Coun. Mike Starchuk to refer the application back to Surrey due to new information received after last week’s public hearing, a call for legal advice, nearly 30 minutes of behind-closed-door talks and the defeat of a motion to take the matter to a new public hearing.

While proponents of the South Surrey subdivision of single-family homes were not immediately available to comment on the final vote, it brought those who had been opposed to the plan some relief.

Sarah Rush, representing Friends of Hazelmere Campbell Valley, said shortly after the vote that she was “pleasantly surprised” by the outcome. The group’s concerns with the application had included its impact to crop diversity, traffic volumes and loss of farmland. As well, that it didn’t comply with any of the goals of Metro Vancouver’s regional growth strategy.

“We’re happy because at the end of the day, taxpayers pay Metro Vancouver to come up with a greater plan that serves the common good,” Rush said. “Anything that’s contrary to that should be turned down.

“We’re just really glad that the directors did their job and made the right decision.”

The City of Surrey – despite city staff advising against – had asked for the bylaw amendment change in order to move a development, proposed by Lapierre Holdings and Hazelmere Golf Course for the 18100- to 18300-block of 0 Avenue, forward.

It had received third reading from Surrey council last September, prompting the city to request an amendment to Metro’s regional growth strategy that would redesignate the 23.7-hectare site to general urban from rural and extend the urban containment boundary to encompass the new general-urban area.

The amendment bylaw needed support of two-thirds of Metro directors to pass. An exact count of Friday’s vote was not immediately available.

Anyone who attended the meeting, or watched the streaming video, heard shock and frustration at learning Starchuk had received new information. Directors and the public had been reminded at the end of the public hearing that no new information could be received after that June 13 hearing had closed.

Comments prior to the vote included describing the receipt as “improper.”

Vice-chair Raymond Louie (Vancouver) called the process of referral out-of-order, and challenged chair Greg Moore (Port Coquitlam) after he ruled to the contrary – a challenge that was ultimately defeated.

Director Maria Harris (Electoral Area A) asked what consequences were in place for board members who don’t adhere to the public-hearing rule of no new information. Learning there are none, Harris questioned what disincentive there is to prevent other directors from doing the same on future matters.

“I just find this a hugely risky rabbit hole to go down,” she said.

Harris suggested the board make a practice of dealing with matters immediately after public hearings, “so we don’t run into the issue. So the debate and the vote takes place… as a part of the public hearing.”

Moore acknowledged that having delayed a decision on the matter instead of making one immediately after the public hearing, may not have been the best decision.

“We will take this back and change our processes in the future, I suspect,” Moore told the board.

The board went into a closed-door meeting after director Richard Stewart (Vancouver) asked for Metro to receive legal advice on their options.

The request followed suggestions that included quashing the bylaw altogether as it had been “tainted.”

“Several people have suggested legal realities and I’m uncomfortable going forward,” Stewart said.

The board had initially been expected to vote on two recommendations: to give third reading to the requested amendment bylaw, and to pass and adopt it.

The development, if approved, would have included a return of 10.7 acres of golf-course land to the ALR; three acres of park; and protection of 7.8 acres of natural area.

Proponents had described the project as key to Hazelmere golf course’s continued viability; a “strategic move” to counter a declining trend in the golf industry.

Friday, in speaking against third reading, Harris noted the board doesn’t “have any onus or obligation to make a decision on the basis it will make a golf course viable.”

Moore, in supporting third reading, said he hadn’t heard any opposing arguments applied beyond the immediate area.

In terms of the urban containment boundary (UCB), he said the “small site isn’t going to change” on a regional context the “pretty phenomenal job” the board has done so far at maintaining the UCB.

Supporters had said the development would create jobs, and that it was “unprecedented” with regard to efforts to involve the Semiahmoo First Nation – vocal in its support – in the process.

Metro staff had recommended the board decline the application, stating in a report that there was “no substantial rationale or demonstrated need” to expand urban development into the Hazelmere Valley.

 

The 145-lot subdivision proposed for the Hazelmere Valley, on 0 Avenue between 180 and 184 Streets. (Aplin Martin report graphic)

Around 75 people filled the gallery of the Metro Vancouver boardroom June 13 for a public hearing on the bylaw amendment proposed for the regional growth strategy. (Tracy Holmes photo)

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