Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include comments from Surrey Councillor Tom Gill
SURREY — Opponents of a Sullivan-area housing development are feeling frustrated, angry and betrayed by Surrey city council.
A plan to build nearly 300 new homes at 5750 Panorama Drive was approved at city hall on Monday (July 25), less than a month after the council put the brakes on the development.
Nearby residents fear even more congested schools and roads will result when the planned 181 townhouses and 106 rental apartment units are built by Redekop Homes on the vacant lot.
Cindy Dalglish (pictured) said she and other opponents of the project have been “stonewalled” at city hall over the past month.
“In a way, we’ve been blindsided,” Dalglish told the Now on Tuesday, “but more than that, we were just beginning to think the city had the best interests of their communities in mind, and this takes us back to (a point where) we can’t trust this council to do what’s right for this city.”
On June 27, in a victory of sorts for local residents, the city referred the development application back to staff, in order to work with the applicant and the school board to see if a phasing-in of the project over several years could minimize the impact on schools in the area.
But on Monday, the council OK’d rezoning for the development site, pending resolution of some issues with project phasing.
One change has the developer agreeing to delay construction of homes by six months, until March 2018, in order to align the timing of occupancy of those homes with the completion of the proposed addition to Sullivan Elementary School later that fall.
It’s not good enough for Dalglish and others angered by council’s decision, which was moved by Tom Gill and seconded by Barbara Steele.
“That addition (to Sullivan Elementary) was never meant for the scope of this development, it was for the current pressures on enrollment at the school,” said Dalglish, a mother and education advocate who represents the South Newton Community group.
“This (development) will only make things worse there, no question. It was just getting under control, and now we’re back to where we were before this.”
On Wednesday, Gill said the development project is a good use of the land, and that the role of providing schools is the responsibility of the province.
“They haven’t done that,” Gill said. “They haven’t built the school they’re supposed to build. I am hoping something will materialize, because it must.”
Gill added he believes council “has been very thoughtful and very respectful in terms of doing our job. My job is to make sure it’s the appropriate land use over the next 50 to 100 years.… Over the long term, this project will be an asset to the community.”
Dalglish said she’s frustrated by a lack of consultation with residents over the past month, and that her group is looking to file a Freedom of Information request “to see what happened behind closed doors” at city hall.
“We don’t feel due diligence was done,” she said. “We could kind of see this coming when we were getting non-answers to our questions and they seemed to be stonewalling us. It’s been pretty pathetic, really. There’s this due process that we’re allowed to be part of, and that’s been ignored. We came out in droves, and did emails and phone calls, talking to media, talking to council members, and we were just ignored on this one, as if we don’t matter.”