City supports growth plan
White Rock has joined the list of municipalities lending their support to Metro Vancouver's Regional Growth Strategy.
Council voted unanimously last week to endorse the plan, following assurances from the city's director of planning and development services that concerns expressed last fall had largely been addressed. Surrey had endorsed the accord the previous week.
The Regional Growth Strategy is intended to help guide the region's development – “from local and regional land use plans to infrastructure and transportation services" – through 2040, as Metro adds another 1.2 million residents. Several drafts have been produced over the past four years.
A key concern for White Rock had been language in the September 2010 draft that designated the Grandview Corners area of South Surrey as a "local centre," and the lack of language to ensure such centres do not adversely impact "town centres" by drawing retail and office uses away – as White Rock has already been seeing.
The issue "did catch the attention of Metro," Paul Stanton said, and the strategy has been revised to read "Local Centres are not intended to compete with or compromise the role of Urban Centres…"
While the change may be a little late, "in the sense the Trojan Horse is already inside the gate," it may assist in ensuring the Grandview Corners area does not continue to grow at the expense of the Semiahmoo Town Centre, Stanton said.
Other concerns raised by city staff were in regards to population and housing projections that White Rock "could not possibly achieve"; and a lack of clarity as to roles and responsibilities for co-ordinating and implementing development of the Regional Recreation Greenway Network.
Stanton said Metro assured the population and housing projections were guidelines only and not binding. Regarding the greenway network, detailed roles and responsibilities have yet to be determined, he said.
A letter to the city from the Urban Development Institute urged council to consider the strategy's impact for future councils, in part because it establishes "a mechanism under which a range of decisions could only be made with a discretionary sign-off by Metro Vancouver."
Noting the statement refers to such things as changing land-use designation, Stanton said staff view it as "a necessary requirement to provide certainty to the plan and ensure the goals for reducing urban sprawl at a regional level can be obtained."
"The majority of (UDI's) contention is focussed on the fringe areas," Stanton said, describing industrial, agricultural and rural lands as example. "The City of White Rock does not share those concerns."
"Many of the economic issues facing White Rock today can be attributed to growth and expansion in neighboring South Surrey which pulled retail and offices uses further north," Stanton writes in his report to council. "This only serves to accentuate the need for regional planning, to minimize land use decisions which can adversely affect existing areas in a competitive environment."
In a delegation to council prior to the plan's endorsement, Metro Vancouver regional planner Terry Hoff – a White Rock resident – noted 10 of 24 municipalitieshad already voted to accept the document.
The 60-day ratification period ends March 22, after which final adoption of the strategy will be recommended, Hoff said. The final vote by the Metro board is set for April 29.
For maps and details of the growth strategy, titled Metro Vancouver 2040: Shaping Our Future, see http://www.metrovancouver.org/planning/development/strategy/