SURREY – The vision for Surrey over the next 30 years has been referred back to staff, following a public hearing Monday where many residents voiced their concerns.
The Official Community Plan was three years in the making and outlines the city’s overall vision over the next three decades, addressing social, economic and environmental challenges like managing population growth, funding public infrastructure and developing sustainable communities.
Among concerns raised at Monday’s hearing were density, transportation, public safety and the environment.
Several community groups turned out to speak their piece.
David Cann spoke against planned density in the Semiahmoo Town Centre, on behalf of the Semiahmoo Residents Association, taking issue with the city’s process in establishing Neighbourhood Concept Plans. In Semiahmoo Town Centre’s case, a plan was developed in 2006, Cann said.
"There was no public hearing before publication. Surrey’s system does not allow for it, so this is our first chance to speak to council about the impact of the plan, which allows for high density at specific sites," he said.
Cann said the group’s main objection to the NCP has always been the shortage of infrastructure to support such an increase in population. "It appears that the Semiahmoo Peninsula is expected to do more than its share."
Cann said the city has repeatedly talked of the need to revitalize the peninsula and the need for new businesses, yet he said "it has consistently approved new commercial areas to the detriment of the town centre."
"First Peninsula Village, then Southpoint and then Grandview. We used to walk, now we have to drive," he said, adding the association first argued against a high-rise proposal in 1986.
"Why does Surrey have to put high density in an area which could not be worse from the viewpoint of sustainability?" he asked.
Coun. Barinder Rasode said she was very encouraged that residents turned out in force to comment on the draft OCP.
"I think referring it back to staff definitely gives the city an opportunity to not only evaluate but include comments that were made at the public hearing," she said Tuesday.
Rasode said the issue of access to information came up repeatedly during the hearing.
"Whether that’s through our website or making requests to the city. And I’ve been a big advocate for open data and transparency and accountability. I actually believe that because data belongs to the residents. I don’t even know why anyone would have to FOI the city for information. It should be just a phone call. I think moving forward, as we hear from residents that they’re having challenges accessing information, we definitely have to make improvements in that area," she said.
Another issue was whether there should be public hearings for NCPs, and Rasode said she’s asked staff to take a look at what other municipalities in the region do.
"We need community engagement at a level where the community feels that the neighbourhood is being built or suited to the best needs of transportation, school and resources for public safety," she said.
Rasode expects it will take staff some time to compile all the information received at the hearing.
Compared to the current OCP, the new draft OCP permits higher densities in city centres, creates two new zoning designations, reduces "red tape" by authorizing temporary use permits without requiring OCP amendments and initiates development guidelines for hazard lands and environmental protection, among other significant differences.
The OCP bylaw also identifies three areas where rapid transit stations are set to be built: along 104th Avenue between City Centre and Guildford Town Centre, at 152nd Street and Fraser Highway, and at 192nd Street and Fraser Highway. The Scott Road SkyTrain station and Scott Road are also slated for development, with the latter in collaboration with the Corporation of Delta.
In terms of environmental protection, the bylaw proposes designating 70 acres of land under the conservation-recreation zone. The land is split between Green Timbers Urban Forest, Sunnyside Acres Urban Forest, Blackie Spit and the following parks: Invergarry, Bonaccord Creek, Bear Creek, Fleetwood and Redwood.
To see the drafted OCP in its entirety, visit http://surrey.ca/city-services/1318.aspx.