Despite passionate pleas from the community to save the green space, Surrey council has chosen to develop treed land connected to Green Timbers Urban Forest.
On Monday afternoon, civic officials voted unanimously to provide the necessary zoning changes to allow for a homeless shelter and transition housing, a health care facility and a bio-energy station on a large tract of forested land adjoining Green Timbers Urban Forest.
The decision comes a week after a marathon public hearing where many concerned residents spoke against the plan.
While the five-hectare (12-acre) parcel of property at 140 Street and Green Timbers Way is not technically inside the heritage forest, it is located next to the mammoth 183-hectare (452-acre) park in North Surrey.
Residents and special interest groups don’t care much for the zoning boundaries. They see the land as park and they wanted it saved.
Many of them lined up to speak with council about it last Monday (May 2) to express their concerns.
Don Schuetze, president of the Green Timbers Heritage Society, allowed that the planned developments are needed in Surrey.
But he argued the plot of land by the park is the wrong spot for them. He noted once the area is dug up, it will never return to its pristine state.
Deb Jack, president of Surrey Environmental Partners, agreed with Schuetze’s concern. She believed that along with a promised arborist’s report, the site needs a wildlife review. To do less would be to invite disaster, she said.
“There’s going to be another killing field,” Jack told council last week.
Jack said the best use for the land would be to leave it in its natural state.
“Especially when it’s contiguous to a park,” she said.
The provincially-owned property was sold to the city two years ago and a plan to pave the area for development has not been well-received by residents. A city development report notes two other alternate sites were considered, but were deemed unsuitable because of location, purchase price and other constraints.
Coun. Judy Villeneuve said the services planned for the site are long overdue.
“We’ve been trying to get a shelter off the ground for the last five to eight years,” Villeneuve told her colleagues at the afternoon session. “The City of Surrey is behind in social infrastructure… that’s why I’m supporting the rezoning.”
Coun. Tom Gill pointed out the property has been zoned for residential development for some time.
At the end of discussion, no councillors opposed the rezoning.