What happened to citizen engagement?

The City of Surrey does not want you to talk about the densification of Grandview Heights.

They hope you will just go away.

The City of Surrey does not want you to talk about the densification of Grandview Heights and the planned build out of Area #4 as it is known. As a taxpayer, my instincts tell me that city staff has circled the wagons on this one.

I say this having participated in several Citizen Advisory Committees over the years. Surrey’s stated goal for this committee is as follows.

The mandate of the Citizen’s Advisory Committee (CAC) is to:

• Bring local knowledge to the planning process for a Neighbourhood Concept Plan (NCP) for the Grandview Heights Area #4;

• Work co-operatively and constructively in the interests of the Grandview Heights NCP Area #4 as a whole;

• Act as a liaison between the residents/property owners of Grandview Heights NCP Area #4 and other Grandview Heights communities, and city staff.

The reality is, there are precious few individuals with local knowledge actually allowed to participate, and only then if you are a successful applicant to the process.

Cooperation and constructive input is measured against a majority owners’ group consisting of developers, home builders, local realtors and investors.

Information sharing is restricted to the attendees only, which effectively rules out any information shared with other Grandview Heights communities.

Coun. Barinder Rasode was quoted as saying, “At this point I’m seriously considering the questions raised by community members who were part of the advisory committee and neighbouring community associations. What’s the need to go forward with (Area) 4 when other areas of the city are not fully developed?”

What is missing, however, is the fact you and I cannot comment on, question, or challenge this mega development because Neighbourhood Concept Plans are not subject to public hearings.

Former councillor Bob Bose said, “Council has compromised itself in terms of public accountability, and citizens’ advisory committees are largely stakeholder groups with a vested interest in the developments – there’s no balance in terms of community involvement.”

For whatever reasons, the City of Surrey is moving away from its principled approach based on citizen engagement and public transparency. This is at a time when voter turnout and public participation is at an all-time low.

South Surrey residents are however, an exception. They speak, listen, and vote on all matters that affect their community. As in the past, they have spoken loudly and clearly on the need to preserve their unique community.

Going back to the future is not where any of us want to be.

 

M. Proskow

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