Surrey city council has approved a controversial development at a Fleetwood golf course.
The decision was made Tuesday night in a 6-2 vote, with Mayor Linda Hepner and Councillor Tom Gill opposed, and Councillor Judy Villeneuve absent due to an injury.
The approval came after a public hearing that lasted eight hours over Monday and Tuesday night, with approximately 80 people speaking to council, both in favour and against.
Anthem Properties Group is behind the proposal seeking to turn a portion of Eaglequest Surrey Coyote Creek golf course into 325 homes.
Proposed is a mixed-use development at 7778, 7858 and 7902 152nd Street. The project includes 60 rental apartments, 46 duplexes and 219 townhouses, as well as an amenity building and about 4,000 square feet of retail space that includes new daycare spots.
The project requires an Official Community Plan amendment of a portion of the property from Suburban and Agricultural to Multiple Residential, as well as rezoning of part of the property and a development permit.
First to speak from city council Tuesday night was Councillor Tom Gill, who began by saying “rezoning is a privilege, it’s not a right.”
“Based upon what I’ve seen over the last two nights, I’m not in a position to be able to support an application that has upwards of 3,000 people that have concerns,” he said Tuesday night.
He said there was an “opportunity” to work with the community to find a better fit.
Councillor Bruce Hayne said he’d heard many “pros and cons” and that there are clearly passionate opinions on both sides of the argument.
The mix of housing in the project, which includes rental units as well as some to be rented below market value, was a positive benefit to the city, he added, but noted many area residents were clearly opposed.
“There’s no question that infrastructure in our community is stretched, and while we don’t specifically have the ability to build schools or to build hospitals or some of the major road networks, even, we have to hold our provincial counterparts’ feet to the fire and ensure they do,” Hayne said.
He noted many school teachers voiced opposition to the project due to overcrowding, and urged them to work with the Surrey Teachers’ Association and the BCTF as well as the district to “push for the elimination of portables and the building of more schools, as we are constantly doing that as well.”
Hayne said two of the things “tipping” his opinion is the endorsements from two of Surrey’s most passionate environmental stewards, referring to South Surrey’s Sybil Rowe and Deb Jack, president of Surrey Environmental partners.
“Both of them liked what they saw,” Hayne noted.
Councillor Dave Woods also spoke of the “huge need” for purpose-built rental and below-market rental housing.
“This is the first proposal that I’m aware of in the city that’s going to do that, and I think that’s a big benefit,” said Woods.
During the hearing, council heard the Eaglequest golf course was struggling financially.
Woods said all of Surrey’s golf courses “are in trouble” and while he doesn’t know if Eaglequest will be able to make a go of it due to reconfiguring as a result of this development, but said he’s happy to hear the clubhouse will receive much-needed upgrades.
While Woods has opposed other developments due to school overcrowding, he said the schools in this Fleetwood area, when compared to other communities such as South Newton and Grandview, “are not at all seriously overtaxed.”
Councillor Vera LeFranc said she was disappointed to see the “Save our parkland” messaging used in the oppositions’ campaign, seeing as this was currently privately-owned land.
“I think that really undermined that campaign and was problematic for me in my deliberation.”
LeFranc said the mix of housing was a positive.
“Actually having city-owned parkland that’s accessible to all city residents is critically important. Green space is not the same thing as parks, and I think it’s pretty clear that’s what this is.”
Councillor Mary Martin praised the project’s rental units, affordable daycare component, upgrades to the golf course’s clubhouse and environmental benefits, including the riparian area and replanting of trees.
“Quite frankly, we are a growing city,” said Martin. “We’ve gone from a suburb to a growing centre. I’d rather see areas developed by a reputable developer, and proposals that are well-planned and well thought out.”
Councillor Barbara Steele said she likes the project’s mixed housing options.
“This is a perfect example of what to do in a growing city, and how to meet the regional growth strategy,” she said of the project.
“It’s absolutely bang on.”
Steele noted some residents said they attempted to meet with the school board regarding this application, but were denied.
She said trustees have since assured her that in the future, they would entertain such meeting requests.
Mayor Linda Hepner, who spoke last, praised Anthem as “one of the best developers we have in this city.”
But Hepner said she couldn’t support this application due to a single principle: “The common good.”
“When I look at the common good, it was very difficult in the Hawthorne Park decision (to build a road through the park as part of a connector road) we had recently. We hear about it every single public hearing: That this is a council that likes to take things down and not build things up. It’s so erroneous that it’s actually hurtful… I made that decision and I believe my colleagues did as well, for the common good. We needed to do something relative to transportation in this city.”
This project, she noted, was a private application by an individual who wanted to do something in a strained economic environment for the business.
“I appreciate that but I don’t believe the city is in the business of saving businesses… I want it to thrive but (it) can’t be the Bombardier of Surrey. I am not in support of this project at this time. I think it’s a great project. I think it has good legs for down the road, but I’m not going to support it tonight.”
After the meeting, Hepner told the Now-Leader that “it was a matter of timing.”
Hepner said she would have liked to see rapid transit operational before approving a project of this density in this location.