Proponents of a truck parking facility slated for the Surrey/Langley border say they are committed to “protecting the integrity” of the environmentally sensitive area, however, those opposed to the project say there are “hundreds of questions” outstanding surrounding the proposal.
The groups came together Monday for a private meeting at Surrey City Hall chaired by Surrey-White Rock MLA Gordon Hogg to discuss the application for a 77-acre commercial truck park at 16 Avenue and 194 Street.
Concerns including the health of the Little Campbell River, which runs adjacent to the property, as well as pollution, food security and the future of the area have been raised since plans were announced in September.
While discussions were described as “very productive,” there were mixed messages surrounding the origin of the meeting itself.
Surrey Coun. Tom Gill – who in September said he supported the project bypassing the city’s Local Area Plan for the neighbourhood, due to be finished early next year – told Peace Arch News he “wanted to be very clear” that he did not initiate the meeting, but was asked to facilitate and attend.
“By no means am I responsible for putting the meeting together,” Gill said Wednesday. “I was asked if I could facilitate it at city hall in terms of finding a room, and I was asked to sit in on the first half.”
Bob Donnelly, president of the Semiahmoo Fish and Game Club, told PAN the meeting came at Gill’s suggestion after Donnelly contacted him requesting some further information on the project. Donnelly said he told Gill he would attend and would request Hogg also take part.
Hogg told PAN he was contacted by Donnelly about setting up a meeting with Gill and the proponents in an attempt to “clear up some of the misinformation” about the project.
Donnelly said he and other concerned area residents were hoping to learn more details about the project and were “surprised” that plans are still in the early conceptual stage.
“I could see nothing new that I hadn’t seen before,” Donnelly said. “We were certainly hoping for more detail. We can’t really get into raising issues without the detail.”
However, Patrick Giesbrecht, a public relations consultant working for the developer, GG Metro Holdings Ltd., told PAN the lack of firm plans was by design, as the group is striving “to engage the stakeholders at this early stage.”
“Nobody wants to feel like a decision is a foregone conclusion, and they’re simply asked to accept the final result,” Giesbrecht said. “Of course what happens when you do that is we don’t necessarily have a lot of firm answers at this point.”
Giebrecht said the project “makes a lot of sense” for the 16 Avenue corridor, which he noted was “slated to be a major thoroughfare with trucks and the movement of goods throughout the southern Fraser Valley.”
He highlighted a number of issues in Surrey that the truck park facility would help solve, pointing to the estimated 1,300 trucks illegally parked throughout the city.
Citing public-safety concerns, air and water pollution created by big rigs driving through and parking on residential streets or farmland, Giesbrecht said the proposed facility would reduce those problems.
“What this park will do is create a safe place where we’re going to have concrete and dirt berms around the park. There will be no run-off going into the stream,” he said, noting protection systems and protocols will be in place to prevent contamination.
“We’re going to be able to show that the air will be cleaner in the City of Surrey because the trucks are going to stay on the periphery.”
David Anderson, director of A Rocha Canada’s Brooksdale Environmental Centre, located across the street from the proposed park, said his concerns centre around the bigger picture of what the project’s approval would mean for the future of the area.
“If the rezoning were to happen on that 77 acres, then that project is going to determine the future of the whole special-study area,” Anderson said, noting there is a “giant question mark” about what will take shape in what he described as the “last quadrant of the rural agricultural area in Surrey.”
Hogg said that although the discussion that took place Monday was a “healthy” one, there are still questions to be answered.
“There are a number of issues that have to be dealt with, and both the proponents, the City of Surrey and the residents of that area and others all understand that,” Hogg said.
Giesbrecht was adamant those issues would be addressed prior to the project moving ahead.
“Every legitimate concern that has come forward, our team of technical staff has told us we will be able to address them all satisfactorily,” he said. “We will be able to protect the stream, we will be able to protect the fish, we will be able to protect the aquifer. If we cannot accomplish that, the project will not move forward.”