A revised plan for a neighbourhood on the Surrey-Langley border received a thumbs-up from Surrey council early Tuesday (July 27) morning, following a public hearing that stretched over six hours and logged comments from more than 100 people.
The Safe Surrey Coalition majority voted just before 2 a.m. to give third reading to a bylaw that amends the city’s Official Community Plan to align with the Stage 1 Land Use Plan for approximately 600 acres in South Surrey’s Campbell Heights – bounded by 20th Avenue to the north, the 196th Street border with Langley to the east, 8th Avenue to the south and approximately 186th Street to the west.
The lands are outside of the agricultural land reserve, currently designated rural and a Special Study Area. They also sit above the Brookswood Aquifer, which interacts with the Little Campbell River and other aquifers in the area.
Among other things, the amendments expand the urban containment boundary south of 20 Avenue and redesignate the area as employment lands, essentially – upon approval from the Metro Vancouver board and final adoption – clearing the way for industrial development.
Langley Township council voted on July 12 to write to the City of Surrey expressing “concern” about the proposed OCP changes, particularly because of possible impacts on the Brookswood Aquifer.
According to the city clerk, the city received 1,123 written submissions supporting the plan and 497 opposing it. Of 89 who called in but did not wish to speak, 32 were in support of the bylaw and 57 voiced opposition.
Those who spoke in favour of the plan during Monday’s public hearing cited the need for land to expand business, and described the area in question as unsuitable for farming.
South Surrey physician Sean Petrovic said he has tried for two years to lease out two properties he has in the subject area to no avail, due to soil conditions.
“My lands presently provide little to no economic benefit to the community and anyone who argues otherwise is out of touch with reality,” Petrovic said. “These lands would be better-suited to a business-employment designation.”
Another supporter who said he has a business moving to the 3300-block of 194 Street said there are many businesses wanting to move to the area that “just can’t find land.”
Redesignating the subject lands for employment is “a much more reasonable thing to do in Surrey than just grow hay,” he said.
Others who spoke said the redesignation translates to 8.5 million square feet of building area and the creation of 17,000 to 20,000 jobs, as well as $20 million annually in tax revenue for the city.
Opponents, meanwhile, emphasized the area’s sensitive habitat, and the risks industrial development poses for the Little Campbell River, which bisects the site.
Municipalities “need to consider environmental consequences” before building out, said one caller, who identified herself as a biologist who has studied the area for the past decade.
She noted the plan also goes against a commitment to work with the Semiahmoo First Nation on water quality.
David Anderson, a director of A Rocha Canada’s Brooksdale Environmental Centre – located on 18 acres of the subject site – and Sarah Rush, of Friends of Hazelmere Campbell Valley, reminded Mayor Doug McCallum and Safe Surrey Coalition council members of a pre-election commitment to support the urban containment boundary and preserve the area.
“Take note of what you said, take note of what you promised and abide by your commitment,” Rush said.
McCallum made a point of disputing the claim, saying the coalition had committed to not allowing residential development to go below 16 Avenue, but “always said” that it would look to allow industry in the area.
Tuesday’s vote authorizes staff to submit a regional growth strategy and regional context statement amendment application to the Metro Vancouver board for approval of the land-use designation amendments.
A similar effort in 2018 was rejected by the board, which referred the application back to Surrey for consideration of an alternative option.
– with files from Tom Zytaruk
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