This screenshot from the Darts Hill Neighbourhood Plan illustrates the growth concept. (City of Surrey graphic)

‘Desperately needed’ NCP for South Surrey’s Darts Hill neighbourhood approved

'Potential housing for 10,000 people' in 130-hectare space, says mayor

Surrey council has approved the Stage 2 concept plan for South Surrey’s Darts Hill neighbourhood.

The decision, made during Monday’s (May 10) virtual council meeting, was a unanimous one – but it was not without discussion.

Initially, Coun. Linda Annis asked that the report be referred back to staff “for further consideration and more engagement with developers.”

“I think some of them are caught a little off-guard by this, and I thing there’s some implications around site-planning and affordability that requires further discussion,” Annis said.

Mayor Doug McCallum, however, said by delaying the plan – which he said has potential to provide housing for 10,000 people – “we, as a council, will be driving the price up of townhouses all over Surrey.”

The neighbourhood concept plan (NCP) – encompassing approximately 130 hectares and more than 98 properties – is detailed in a 273-page report.

According to the report, it “includes a new vision for the Darts Hill neighbourhood, including a land use and urban design concept, parks and open space network, transportation network, and engineering servicing strategy,” as well as a financing and implementation strategy for delivering infrastructure and amenities.

The subject area is bounded by the Agricultural Land Reserve to the south, 168 Street to the west, 20 Avenue to the north and Redwood Park to the east. As of 2019, it had a population of 324 residents, with a population density of 2.7 people per hectare.

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Planning for Stage 1 began in early 2017. Stage 2 planning began mid-2019, and included “a comprehensive program of public and stakeholder consultation,” including open houses, online surveys, workshops, and more, ultimately involving nearly 1,500 residents and stakeholders, the report states.

At Monday’s meeting, Coun. Laurie Guerra commended staff for their “phenomenal work” on the plan, but also noted that she, along with Couns. Mandeep Nagra and Allison Patton – all members of the city’s development advisory committee – had recently fielded concerns from some of the area’s major landowners regarding how a “zero-carbon incentive” will play out in developments, as well as tandem-parking restrictions.

She asked if the report could be approved with a condition that building developers and stakeholders meet with staff to further discuss those issues.

Nagra went a step further, suggesting council hold off on approving the report until after the development advisory committee brings a recommendation to council regarding the tandem-parking issue, which is currently under its review.

In the NCP, tandem parking spaces are not permitted in areas designated ‘medium density townhouse,’ where development is intended to be family- and seniors-oriented, and include larger-format townhouse and row housing units.

Regarding the zero-carbon incentive, the report notes it is “intended to encourage the design and construction of zero carbon operation buildings… that is, for buildings where 100% of site and building operational energy needs are met with non-polluting energy, including for space heating, hot water, cooking, and pool heating, and the buildings are not connected to a fossil fuel supply grid.”

Development that meets the criteria are eligible for “applicable additional density allowances,” the report states, adding that benefiting projects will have to secure the criteria prior to final rezoning, and register the requirements on title to ensure they are followed up at the building-permit stage.

For high-density townhouse projects, the incentive would translate to an additional five units per acre (UPA), up from 25, while for semi-detached residential projects, it’s a difference of three UPA, to a maximum of 15.

Regarding moving the plan forward with conditions, Patton said she was “more in line” with Guerra, however, city manager Vincent Lalonde advised caution, as conditional approvals are “always subject to debate.”

“Conditional approvals are difficult for us to manage,” he said.

McCallum described the NCP as “desperately needed in our community to provide housing.”

Noting any delays would be months long, not weeks, McCallum said the plan is also “a bit of a release valve for prices if we get this through quickly.”

“If we don’t put it through then there’ll be this shortage that’s out there, and the only result from that shortage is without this type of townhouses on the market, our prices will continue to skyrocket,” he said.

The concerns noted can be addressed as actual projects come to council, McCallum added.

Annis withdrew her recommendation to send the report back to staff, on assurances that developers would be engaged on the issues raised.

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An expansion of South Surrey’s Darts Hill Garden Park is noted in the NCP that was approved by Surrey council May 10, 2021. (City of Surrey photo)