Metro Vancouver’s regional planning committee has voted in favour of a recommendation to move forward with the City of Surrey’s request to redesignate lands in South Campbell Heights for employment use.
The Oct. 8 decision – with directors Harold Steeves, Rob Vagramov, Nora Gambioli and Lisa Muri opposed – followed more than a dozen delegations that morning, as well as a presentation from City of Surrey staff and discussion amongst committee members.
In supporting the recommendation, committee chair Jonathan Coté noted that while he “continues to have reservations” with the proposal – including an apparent lack of consultation with affected First Nations – it “warrants consideration at the board level.”
In stark contrast, Vagramov described the application as “a non-starter,” questioning how creating commercial space in the area “is worth destroying a one- to 200-year-old forest.”
Vagramov said the urban containment boundary – which the City of Surrey wants to extend – is “Metro Vancouver’s flagship.”
“It’s the human footprint. What is the point of the limit on the human footprint if we’re just going to extend the human footprint,” Vagramov said. “What is the point of a boundary if the boundary is just going to move, and for what?
“Where do we draw the line on this stuff?”
Surrey council in July – following a six-hour public hearing – authorized staff to submit a regional growth strategy and regional context statement amendment application to the Metro Vancouver board.
The request, essentially, is to re-designate approximately 242 hectares on the South Surrey-Langley Township border – including 160.8 ha of that as employment lands – and extend the urban containment boundary (UCB) by 223.7 ha.
As well, to re-designate 13.4 ha of mixed employment lands within the UCB to conservation and recreation.
The area is bounded by 20 Avenue to the north, 196 Street to the east, 8 Avenue to the south and approximately 186 Street to the west.
It is outside of the agricultural land reserve, sits atop the Brookswood aquifer and encompasses 72 properties.
Delegations Friday reiterated many of the pro and con arguments that have been heard regarding the application in the years since the city began to work towards the redesignation.
Proponents said it will address the region’s industrial-land shortage, create thousands of jobs and millions in tax revenue, and that “every reasonable measure has and will be taken” to ensure responsible development.
Cloverdale District Chamber of Commerce executive director Scott Wheatley said his support is on the condition that Metro Vancouver and TransLink partner to address the “shameful” commute that Cloverdale residents must make to work in South Campbell Heights if they aren’t driving.
Opponents’ submissions included that environmental studies done in support of the application are limited in scope; that species at risk and human-health impacts haven’t been taken into account; and that the plan goes against what Semiahmoo First Nation has been working towards to restore the Little Campbell River and surrounding area.
In support of the latter statement, wildlife biologist Myles Lamont cited a comment SFN councillor Joanne Charles made during the city’s July 26 public hearing, during which she advised council that the SFN had not received any information from the city nor been engaged in any conversations with city staff regarding the land-use amendment plan.
Surrey’s manager of community planning Preet Heer said plans for redesignating the Special Study Area started in 2014, and that the intent is to increase the supply of employment lands while protecting the environmentally sensitive area. Further studies are to be undertaken in the next phase of planning, added Yonatan Yohannes, the city’s manager of utilities.
“We realize that there’s a need for additional study,” Yohannes said. “It will help us to and inform us to make adjustments to the land-use plan as required.”
Prior to Friday’s vote, the committee supported an amendment suggested by Coté, that the recommendation include to provide direction to Metro staff to refer to local First Nations for comment.
Given that the application targets an area identified in Metro 2040 as a Special Study Area – reflecting the city’s intent to seek future land-use change – only a 50-per-cent-plus-one weighted vote is required for the board to move it forward.
The matter is scheduled to come before the board on Oct. 29, for consideration of first, second and third reading and referral for comments, followed by a minimum 30-day notification period. Consideration of final reading and adoption is expected in January.
To request an opportunity to address the board at the Oct. 29 meeting, visit metrovancouver.org
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