Stewards of the Little Campbell River and surrounding area (from left) David Riley, Sarah Rush, David Anderson and Shauna Anderson stand by salmon spawning grounds, just north of 16 Avenue in South Surrey. (Contributed photo)

Stewards of the Little Campbell River and surrounding area (from left) David Riley, Sarah Rush, David Anderson and Shauna Anderson stand by salmon spawning grounds, just north of 16 Avenue in South Surrey. (Contributed photo)

UPDATE: Public hearing set for South Campbell Heights plan

River stewards’ petition passes 4,000-signature mark

The public will have a chance to weigh in on the City of Surrey’s revised plan for South Campbell Heights – which includes re-designating 600 acres as employment lands – at a public hearing July 26, after council on Monday (July 12) voted 5-4 in favour of giving first and second readings to a series of staff recommendations outlined in a corporate report on the matter.

David Anderson, co-director of A Rocha Canada’s Brooksdale Environmental Centre, said he and other stewards of the area in question were “disappointed but not surprised” by the decision.

“There was some good debate, there was good questions raised,” Anderson said Tuesday, adding stakeholders would be meeting that night to discuss next steps.

He expects a petition that launched last week by the Little Campbell Watershed Society in an effort to put the brakes on the city’s plans will continue to gain steam in the meantime. It collected more than 2,000 signatures in its first 24 hours, and by Tuesday afternoon, had surpassed 4,000.

The petition asks people to sign to state their opposition to: changing the land away from rural; extending Metro Vancouver’s urban containment boundary south of 20 Avenue; eroding the protection of important conservation areas and forests; and the rationale that there is urgent need to make these lands in particular available for such uses.

“These lands include the Little Campbell/Tatalu River (home to five species of salmon) and surrounding sensitive habitat that supports a myriad of highly threatened species and special wildlife. The Little Campbell flows through Semiamhoo First Nations lands and into Semiamhoo/Boundary Bay, an internationally designated Important Bird Area,” the petition states.

“It is CRITICAL that we let Mayor Doug Mccallum and Surrey City Council know that we care about the conservation and health of the Little Campbell River, Semiahmoo Bay, and Surrey’s Hazelmere area.”

A push for those opposed to write to mayor and council with their concerns will also continue, Anderson added.

The July 26 public hearing is to get underway at 2 p.m.

Peace Arch News reported last week about concerns with the city’s revised plans for the area, which includes the 1620 192 St. site that is home to the Brooksdale centre, where the non-profit Christian organization promotes environmental education, conservation and sustainable agriculture.

READ MORE: Revised plans for Surrey’s South Campbell Heights area alarm conservationists

READ MORE: South Surrey land donation celebrated

The 18-acre property is bordered on the west and south by Agricultural Land Reserve, and on the east by the Township of Langley.

The Little Campbell River runs through it, bisecting the entire area that is being considered for re-designation. Much of those 600 acres also sit atop the unconfined Brookswood Aquifer.

In a news release issued July 7, longtime stewards of the land say the South Campbell Heights plan poses a serious risk to the area’s habitat, and, according to Semiahmoo First Nation Chief Harley Chappell, is “completely counterproductive to the work we have been undertaking for the past 20 years to improve water quality issues of the river.”

Anderson said stewards’ conviction regarding the river “is not sentimental.”

“If this proposal were to go forward, it would be the first large-scale industry allowed on the Little Campbell River. That’s our big concern,” Anderson told PAN Friday (July 9).

“Can a small river system with species at risk in it – federally protected species at risk – can it handle the scope and scale of this kind of proposal, and our conviction is, it just can’t.”

The scale of change proposed is like “opening Pandora’s box,” he said.

The City of Surrey first asked to amend the regional growth strategy (Metro 2040), including extending the urban containment boundary by 245 hectares, in January 2018.

Metro Vancouver rejected the application in May of that year – stating there was “no substantial rationale or demonstrated need” to expand urban development into the Hazelmere Valley – and asked the city to consider an “alternate amendment.”

READ MORE: ‘No substantial rationale’ to amend land-use for South Campbell Heights

In the corporate report that council considered Monday, staff sought approval of the revised plan and associated official community plan (OCP) bylaw amendments, as well as support to forward a regional context statement (RCS) and regional growth strategy (RGS) amendment application to the Metro board.

The process, the report notes, “will resolve Surrey’s Special Study area as identified in the RGS.”

The 2018 application was unsuccessful “largely due to lack of regional support for the scale and density of residential development that would have been facilitated,” the report states.

At the same time, the report from Metro at that time “generally supported the redesignation of Rural to Mixed Employment because the amendment would add much needed industrial land inventory to the regional industrial land base.”

Demand for industrial land in Metro Vancouver “has been outpacing the supply,” the report continues.

City of Surrey staff estimate Campbell Heights North employment lands have the capacity for another seven to nine years of development.

Construction in that area began following council’s authorization in 2003 for development of 200 acres at 24 Avenue and 192 Street (also known as Stokes Pit).

The work was later characterized by the David Suzuki Foundation as one of the worst examples of salmon habitat loss caused by development.

Damage logged as of 2008 included the lowering of Latimer Lake, problems with well water, deforestation and destruction of fish- spawning and wildlife habitat.

According to the July 12 report, the revised plan for South Campbell Heights removes residential uses, and reduces the proposed urban containment boundary expansion by 13.1 hectares (reducing servicing implications along the river).

The area proposed for employment land has increased to 139 hectares from 35, for uses such as “warehousing light industry contained within buildings”; and employment uses are limited to those that do not require an air-quality permit.

Conservation along the Little Campbell River is a focus, the report adds, and additional land for riparian protection is expected to be secured through the development-application process.

The report also includes results of an online survey that drew 1,675 respondents by the time it closed on June 20.

Respondents “indicated significant concerns for the revised plan as proposed,” as well as concerns related to a lack of engagement opportunities, the report states.
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