There were cheers but also angst after a packed two-hour public hearing Monday when Surrey council gave its approval to a proposal to begin developing infrastructure in the Anniedale-Tynehead community, seven years after the Neighbourhood Concept Plan (NCP) was approved for the roughly 1,000-acre rural area.
The approval is seen by champions and opponents as the beginning of the redevelopment of the area, currently “designated to support urban development and the future home of up to 20,000 Surrey residents,” according to city documents.
That’s equivalent to the population of White Rock.
The current application projects an ultimate build-out population of 27,042 within the NCP area, south of Port Kells. It is generally bounded by Highway 1 and 96th Avenue to the north, 168th Street to the west, the Agricultural Land Reserve to the south and Harvie Road to the east.
“Situated over gently sloping highlands, the area provides excellent views of the agricultural lowlands,” city documents note. “It is also home to many significant and protected watercourses, including the Serpentine River and several of its tributaries.”
Councillor Steven Pettigrew said this decision was “really, really difficult.”
“I just wanted to say that no matter what we decide as a council, there’s going to be a huge percentage of the population that’s going to be not happy with our decision. If it were just 500 people that wanted it, and nobody to oppose it, but it’s really evenly split,” he said.
Ultimately, Pettigrew was the lone voice of opposition against the proposal, stating he feels the city “needs to leave something for the future generations.”
Beech Westgard Developments proposes in phase one to build a pump station and detention pond, and required council’s blessing to subdivide 17141 92nd Ave. and 9235 172nd St. into one single family lot, two for the municipal infrastructure and one riparian lot.
Approval is still needed from the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations.
Since the NCP was officially adopted in 2012, little development has occurred given the need for significant financial infrastructure investment through a front-ending developer. City staff note a Development Cost Charges Front-Ending Agreement and a Development Works Agreement with the applicant will “provide the initial backbone of infrastructure required” for redevelopment to now begin.
The lengthy May 13 hearing at city hall saw 14 people – mostly immediate area residents – urge council to approve the proposal, with another 14 expressing opposition largely over environmental concerns, instead pleading with council to pause and review the city plans for the area.
In addition to those who spoke, another 60 people signed up in support and another 10 against the proposal, not wishing to speak. And, duelling petitions were presented to council, hundreds expressing support and hundreds expressing opposition.
At the hearing, more than a dozen locals expressed their day-to-day hardships, stressing development was long overdue.
“We need servicing and infrastructure, we need city water, sewers, streetlights, sidewalks and the other benefits development brings,” said Jennifer Chen, who spoke to council on behalf of 500-odd people who signed a petition urging the project’s approval, said she sat on a citizen’s advisory council for years that helped create the NCP.. “The NCP has been approved since 2012 and the area has been in a state of uncertainty in that time. Property values have fluctuated, rumours have abounded, developers have come and gone, homeowners have paid a staggering amount of tax as property assessments increased. Despite that, our services have not improved. In fact, we’ve seen our neighbourhood deteriorate and other NCP areas progress.”
Several area residents said after the NCP was approved back in 2012, land speculators began buying properties, resulting in vacant, derelict, unkempt properties and/or troublesome rental tenants throughout the community.
Chen spoke about the “rampant crime” that’s resulted, pointing to grow-ops and “crack shacks” setting up shop in the area.
A handful of other locals shared stories of having to chase drug dealers or prostitutes off their properties.
Chen also showed council an image of a burned-out car that was lit on fire in her driveway a few years ago.
“This is the type of neighbourhood we now have,” she lamented.
Chen urged council to “finally bring smart development to our area” by approving this initial infrastructure to get the ball rolling.
Several environmentalists, meantime, strongly pressed council to review the NCP instead.
“We indeed most strongly urge Surrey council to send this matter back to staff for a thorough reassessment of the biodiversity values and about who those values are to be protected and preserved and to continue to provide green services for Surrey forward, arguably for centuries, without impairment and destruction due to construction or infrastructure installation,” said Deb Jack, president of Surrey Environmental Partners.
“The world is at a point of climate crisis, some are saying climate emergency,” Jack added. “We need to be planning accordingly so that in 2019 we are doing the best present-day practices with the greatest of respect, that doesn’t necessarily mean whatever might have been written six years ago.”
Several opponents reminded Mayor Doug McCallum and his Safe Surrey Coalition that they campaigned on smart development, and insisted to approve this was to break that promise, while several locals insisted the NCP was, in fact, a shining example of smart development.
Norm Porter, one of three partners in Beech Westgard Developments, said the company is “committed to leaving a positive human footprint.”
“We took on this project because we see a need for development to serve the growth in the residential, commercial and industrial sectors of Surrey,” said Porter at the hearing. “I believe we’re doing that and I believe we do that everywhere. We consider the environment.”
“This plan, yes, started in 2005. There’s been a very long, patient planning strategy and process we’ve gone through. The plan was paused in 2008 to allow the street and road improvements to catch up,” he explained.
He insisted the plan isn’t “archaic” as some speakers suggested, and that each individual development proposal would come before council for approval.
“As this moves forward in the years to come, the next 20, 30 whatever number of years this takes – and that will depend on the growth Surrey sees – every development will come forward and when it comes forward you’ll consider that development on the modern environmental standards.”
Representatives for the applicant also highlighted that the area is situated at a “nexus” of three highways and connectors, that TransLink has identified six bus routes for the local neighbourhood through the NCP, and that three properties are identified as school sites in the NCP.
Councillor Laurie Guerra said she “read every email for and against this project.”
“I also live very close to the area and I recognize many of you in the area because I walk in Tynehead Park and I often see you walking in Tynehead Park,” she said to the packed council chamber. “Today I decided to take a drive around the area and I was shocked to see, like some of you have said, there’s fencing. Every property is fenced off with security cameras, signs that say ‘Big dog on the property, beware.’ It’s nothing like the area I live in that’s been developed and it’s beautiful, I love it, we have lots of trees as well. That area is not. It’s a shame as far as I’m concerned. I’m going to be in favour of this project. To me, this exemplifies smart development.”