‘Significant concern’ stalls Surrey rezoning decision

Forested South Surrey property eyed for a 14-lot business park

Surrey council has referred back to city staff a rezoning application that would enable a new business park to be built in South Surrey.

The decision, regarding property at 18718 28 Ave., was made Nov. 21, following a public hearing on plans to create 14 business-park lots on 15.3 acres.

“Obviously, there was a significant amount of concern raised by the residents,” Shawn Low, Surrey’s planning manager for the south, told Peace Arch News Wednesday.

Low said planning staff would meet with the applicant today (Friday) to discuss issues raised, which include potential impact to creeks and tree retention. Staff will also examine a potential restrictive covenant for air-quality issues, he said.

The decision to forego third reading on the proposed rezoning was good news, said area resident Terry McNeice, who was among more than a dozen who voiced opposition at the hearing.

“The community doesn’t want it,” McNeice told PAN. “It’s the same as any development, but this one is worse… A lot of people are anxious and concerned about it.”

Subject siteThe application is focused on a forested parcel of land just east of East Kensington Elementary. Proponents seek to have the land rezoned from general agriculture to comprehensive development, with one lot – about 16 per cent of the site – to be conveyed to the city “for protection of environmental areas.”

They also want permission to reduce the minimum stream-side setback to 11 metres from 30 at the closest point.

In addition to potential emissions from future businesses, opponents’ concerns included tree loss and the development’s proximity to the elementary school – which is transitioning to an outdoor-learning program – as well as impact on wildlife and water quality.

In what may have been a first at city hall, a massive zucchini was hoisted to help drive home why the rezoning should not be approved. A young man, who identified himself only as Austin from White Rock, made the gesture in his closing submissions.

“Everyone remembers a speaker that brings in a big zucchini, right?” Austin asked council.

He pointed to the summer squash – harvested that day from an organic farm blocks from the property  – as an example of what could be lost.

“There’s beautiful old-growth trees in the area, and there’s also beautiful crops being grown in the area,” he said.

According to a Nov. 7 city staff report, the proposal complies with the site’s ‘mixed employment’ designation in the Official Community Plan. As well, the proposed rezoning to comprehensive development “meets the intent of the OCP and (Local Area Plan) designations for the site and will accommodate light impact industry, limited office and service uses.”

In response to a question from Mayor Linda Hepner, planning staff confirmed a restrictive covenant could prohibit “emission-generating businesses” on the proposed lots.

While that was heartening news to some who spoke, others said it wasn’t enough.

McNeice asked council to put a restrictive covenant on all future industrial plants.

Frank Mueggenburg expressed concern with “all the steps that have already been missing” – including public input and studies on potential damage.

Another neighbour said wildlife in the area has decreased in recent years, and will be “forever gone” if this project goes ahead.

However, Oleg Verbenkov, principal of Pacific Land Group and agent for the developer, said efforts have been made to meet requirements for sensitive ecosystems, and that reports – including one on impact mitigation – have been reviewed by experts.

Verbenkov noted that while there is a request to reduce the stream-side setback, the average setback planned is 30 m.

Asked if the project could be redesigned to incorporate concerns, Verbenkov pointed to steps already taken.

“What we’re trying to do is balance the employment lands with environmental protection,” he said.

Verbenkov did not disagree with the concept of a restrictive covenant, but suggested it be applied when lot applications are received.

McNeice told PAN Tuesday that he has asked the developer to hold a public information meeting, and for the city to hold a new public hearing, as access to a 112-page environmental assessment was not available in time for proper review.

“Hardly anybody knew about it,” McNeice said. “There’s some serious stuff in there.”

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