CLAYTON — Surrey council has rubber-stamped a large development in the already overcrowded Clayton area – a stone’s throw away from the new Salish Secondary school being built.
The 16-acre project will see 14 properties turned into 131 single-family lots in the 18200- to 18400-block of 73rd Avenue.
This is the largest land assembly to date in the area, according to a city report, and none of the more than 200 existing trees will be saved.
A total of 136 students are projected from the development, which was given third reading Monday night.
Education advocate Cindy Dalglish said though the developer did a great job engaging the community, there is no room in local schools for those kids.
“Even the one that is going to be built was meant for current pressures, not additional pressures,” she told the Now.
Dalglish said the communication channels between the provincial government and Surrey city hall are broken.
“The district can only manage with what is given to them and can lobby for more but at the end of the day they are in the middle,” Dalglish lamented. “The province needs to sign off on them so they can’t say they weren’t aware.”
“(I’m) frustrated that they don’t seem to get their role,” she said of Surrey council.
Surrey school trustee Laurae McNally agrees.
“There is a huge disconnect between Surrey city hall approving everything under the sun and the provincial government not approving anything,” said McNally. “That’s the reality. It’s wrong. It’s really wrong.”
In a letter to city council, the school district noted enrolment in Clayton already exceeds capacity of the local schools. And it’s expected to “grow significantly” due to expansion of the east and west Clayton Neighbourhood Community Plans.
“The Clayton Elementary site cannot accommodate additional portables onsite so in September 2016 a large section of Clayton Elementary catchment is moving to Hazelgrove Elementary (which is also full),” the district wrote.
“In addition to the three existing schools, Clayton, Hazelgrove and Katzie, the district is projected to need multiple new elementary schools to serve the long-term residential build out and population growth in the Clayton area.”
As for the high schools in the area, they remain under “extreme enrolment pressure.”
Mayor Linda Hepner noted this particular development is within the density approved in the city’s Neighbourhood Concept Plan (NCP).
“The thing about this particular project is had they gone with the density they expected on that property, it actually came down from like 400 units in an apartment,” Hepner told the Now.
The mayor said the housing market is extremely tight in the region and city hall doesn’t want to get in the way of the industry.
“But I think Cindy’s point is well taken that we’re in need of a constant increase in schooling,” added Hepner. “With a city that’s growing – and has historically been growing – the way we have, it’s more a question of how do we get the schools in a timelier fashion?”
Earlier this year, Hepner said the city and school district were working together to come up with a school funding proposal to present to the provincial government.
Though Hepner said she hoped it would be done by September, she said that’s now expected to be complete by the end of September.
“It takes us so long from the (funding) announcement to be able to open the door. There has to be a better way to be permit ready,” said Hepner.
“I support that – hopefully through new policy.”
Premier Christy Clark herself has acknowledged the current funding policies don’t work for Surrey.
“I think we’re just going to have to find a new way of making sure that there are seats for when the kids arrive rather than some of the way we seem to be doing it now, which seems to be a little bit after the fact,” Clark told the Now last May at a funding announcement at Panorama Park Elementary.