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Surrey council clashes with Metro Vancouver over land use decisions

‘Metro has really stepped over the red line as far as planning is concerned,’ Mayor Doug McCallum says
Outside Surrey council chambers, in city hall. (File photo)

Surrey city council is taking umbrage with Metro Vancouver, saying it is impinging on the city’s jurisdiction concerning decisions over local land use.

“I don’t want to see other councillors, or other mayors from other cities, telling us in Surrey how we develop our land,” Mayor Doug McCallum said.

Council came out in a rare united front Monday night as it contemplated a corporate report addressing Metro Vancouver’s Draft Regional Growth Strategy – Metro 2050.

“It really gets upsetting because the type of threats – I’ll say threats – throughout this document that if we don’t agree then they won’t put in new sewers and waters. That’s something that I have never seen that kind of threat before,” McCallum said.

“It is a threat to the City of Surrey, and they shouldn’t do that,” McCallum said. “If they can get this through, then what Metro is going to start next is asking to get some DCCs (development cost charges) from us in planning and some density bonusing from planning, that’s their next step to get some revenue into them once they get this planning context through.”

“Metro has really stepped over the red line as far as planning is concerned,” he said. A report must be sent in response, he said, and council voted to make it so.

Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum. (Photo: Lauren Collins)

Coun. Allison Patton said a city should be able to determine how it develops its own land. “Metro plays an advisory role, not a dictatorial role, not a legislative role,” she said. “They’re creeping into things that I don’t want them to creep into.”

“Cities that are not Surrey have no idea what it is to be Surrey,” she said. “I don’t really want to be talking to them about their land use and I don’t want them talking to me about my land use.”

Coun. Laurie Guerra said she’s been on the Metro Board for three years. Council and staff supported a land use change in Surrey recently, she said, but had to go through a vote on the Metro board to get it passed. She said she was “shocked” to see the number of hoops the city needed to jump through “in order to get elected officials from other jurisdictions to determine our land use in Surrey.”

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Coun. Brenda Locke echoed her colleagues’ concerns. “I do think that scope creep with Metro Vancouver is a problem, that’s something we have to be alive to,” she said. Speaking to Metro Vancouver’s housing projects, she added, Vancouver has 14 housing projects, Richmond has nine, and Surrey has five.

“Our residents pay exactly the same taxes, so that’s a concern to me,” Locke said. “Building those resources for Surrey is important.”

Coun. Doug Elford also argued that Metro is “creeping into” areas of governance it doesn’t belong.

“I think people are most concerned about their toilet flushing, their tap running and their garbage getting picked up and to me those are the core services,” he said. “I think Metro has really started to get beyond their scope of responsibility out there and I’m really concerned about them creeping into this planning process.

“I just don’t like the idea of Metro trying to control our planning process.”

Said Coun. Mandeep Nagra, “I think the land use is something that we need to control and we need to make decisions on.”

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McCallum reiterated that when it comes to Surrey’s planning end, “there is no place for Metro to be involved.

“Over the years, and each year I’ve seen, they’ve started to claw back a whole bunch of things. They’re an unelected board, they’re only appointed by the cities, they’re not elected directly. And yet they’re making huge decisions on behalf of Surrey residents.

“They have crossed the line as far as what they want to say as far as controlling Surrey,” McCallum charged. “They’ve crossed the red line at this stage, as far as I’m concerned, as far as controlling cities’ land use uses.

“Each year, they start to take a little bit more and I, too, get really upset when a mayor from the North Shore can tell us how to develop our land in Surrey.”

Councillors Steven Pettigrew and Jack Hundial were not at Monday’s council meeting.

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About the Author: Tom Zytaruk

I write unvarnished opinion columns and unbiased news reports for the Surrey Now-Leader.
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