A 2015 community meeting regarding a proposed truck park drew more than 150 people to the Semiahmoo Fish & Game Club. (File photo)

A 2015 community meeting regarding a proposed truck park drew more than 150 people to the Semiahmoo Fish & Game Club. (File photo)

UPDATED: City of Surrey told to rethink plan for South Campbell Heights

Metro board votes to reject application to redesignate lands

Metro Vancouver’s board of directors has rejected the City of Surrey’s application to redesignate lands in South Campbell Heights – including an area south of 16 Avenue – for development.

A resolution for the board to “refer the South Campbell Heights application for an amendment to Metro 2040 back to the City of Surrey to consider an alternate amendment” was supported Friday.

But while the recommendation to do so had come forward following a unanimous vote earlier this month by Metro’s regional planning committee, last week’s decision was not a full sweep, with at least a half dozen directors voting against the recommendation. One – Langley Township Coun. Charlie Fox – asked for his vote in opposition to be recorded.

The overall decision was “some relief,” Semiahmoo Fish & Game Club president Bob Donnelly, who was among presenters at Friday’s meeting, told Peace Arch News.

“I think it reinforced Metro Van’s position that they want to protect the Metro (2040) and stand by the… strategy for guidelines for development,” he said.

At the same time, Donnelly said, he found it “strange” that the city planner in attendance didn’t – in a late-addition delegation that necessitated an agreement by the board to suspend its rules for delegations – present an option that excluded the lands south of 16 Avenue. It’s an option Donnelly suspects would have been supported by the board.

Surrey planner Don Luymes instead described a plan that, among other things, would require 50 per cent of development sites be set aside as green space and allow for the extension of sewers south of 16 Avenue. The latter, he said, would better-protect the Brookswood aquifer.

Surrey Coun. Tom Gill asked for the board to direct staff to prepare a bylaw to amend Metro 2040, but his motion sparked much debate and was ultimately defeated.

Donnelly described Gill’s motion as an attempt to “overthrow” the regional planning committee decision. He said he was not surprised by the move, given attempts over the years to develop in the area.

Friday’s decision, he added, puts all development sought within the boundaries of the Local Area Plan on hold.

“Nothing can be put in there until this thing is resolved.”

Donnelly said the city’s plan shows Surrey was “not prepared to adjust the boundaries.”

“It seemed to be that the focus of this whole thing is south of 16th. If they’d come back with a third option that said let’s forget about south of 16th… I don’t think there would’ve been any hesitation.”

The city had asked in January to amend the regional growth strategy (Metro 2040) – including extending the urban containment boundary (UCB) by 235 hectares – in order to accommodate the “Stage 1 South Campbell Heights Land Use Plan” that was endorsed by Surrey council last July.

The area subject to the proposed amendment – south of 16 Avenue near 192 Street, abutting the Township of Langley – is currently designated rural in Metro 2040, and identified as a Special Study Area.

A planning process for the area began in 2014 but became the subject of controversy in 2015 after an effort to move a proposal to build a truck park on 77 acres adjacent to the Little Campbell River ahead of the Local Area Plan planning process. Proponents GG Metro Holdings later withdrew the request, and became involved in the LAP exercise.

Describing himself as a representative of landowners, Arvind Grewal was critical of Metro Vancouver’s process. He told the board prior to the vote that landowners and Surrey planners were “equally shocked” by the regional planning committee’s recommendation, and described the process that led to it as “disrespectful to all of the stakeholders currently living in the area.”

What was proposed “is a huge improvement over what was previously being considered for these lands,” Grewal said.

Sarah Rush, chair of Friends of Hazelmere Campbell Valley – a group that formed in the wake of the truck-park news – disagreed. Rush told the board that too much of the land in question was being suggested for designation change and not protection. She noted a need for employment lands was cited as the original driver for the LAP.

“There is not a shortage of employment lands in Surrey. Why rezone this special area if the original justification is void?”

Surrey gave third reading to the South Campbell Heights Local Area Plan official community plan amendments last November. The city then asked Metro to amend the RGS to extend the urban containment boundary, remove the Special Study Area and amend land-use designations to mixed employment, conservation/recreation, general urban and agricultural from rural and mixed employment.

In the earlier report to the regional planning committee, senior regional planner Terry Hoff notes elements of Surrey’s proposed amendment were “generally consistent with Metro 2040 provisions” – for example, the conservation/recreation designation change would protect 14 hectares of forest south of 16 Avenue that was identified in a consultant’s report as a ‘critical biodiversity region’ “and serve to further buffer the Little Campbell River riparian corridor.” However, redesignating 143 hectares of land to general urban from rural “would be inconsistent with the provisions of Metro 2040.”

Hoff concluded there is “no substantial rationale” to expand urban development into the Hazelmere Valley.

Friday, several Metro Vancouver directors concurred.

Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart and Pitt Meadows Mayor John Becker both questioned the message expanding the UCB sends to speculators.

“We need to be showing that we take the urban containment boundary and regional growth strategy very seriously. They’re there for a reason,” Becker said. “I am tired of hearing from the development community that the regional growth strategy and urban containment boundary are like an Etch A Sketch and you simply turn it upside down and then redraft it at a whim.”

Peace Arch News