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Arts-towers opponents in full force at community meeting

Attendees concerned about a proposed arts centre and towers sign a petition and add their emails to a list of people wanting to receive more information on the issue.  - Tracy Holmes photos
Attendees concerned about a proposed arts centre and towers sign a petition and add their emails to a list of people wanting to receive more information on the issue.
— image credit: Tracy Holmes photos

Organizers of a community meeting on an arts centre/towers development eyed for South Surrey say proposed amendments to the city’s Official Community Plan, if approved, could pave the way for even more highrises.

Those amendments received first and second reading in December and go to public hearing on Feb. 17, Debra Davis told a crowd of about 50 people who turned out Monday to learn more about the South Surrey project.

“Once it’s accepted and approved in its current form, it will permit higher densities in the town centres,” Davis said.

“Once that OCP is approved, our density is already up. (The public hearing) is the one we all need to go to.”

Proposed for two lots at 152 Street and 19 Avenue, the project includes two towers – 23 and 21 storeys tall, not including a four-storey podium under the tallest – a 350-seat performing-arts centre and an arts centre cafe/gallery.

Nearly 600 underground parking spaces on 3½ levels are also proposed.

Architect Patrick Cotter has said the project is in keeping with a Semiahmoo town centre plan provision that allows buildings over 20 storeys at a few “landmark” sites along the 152 Street corridor –  provided amenity contributions support cultural goals for the area.

He has noted the performing arts and gallery spaces offer an opportunity to provide an arts hub in the town centre, while the project would contribute to upgrading of the corridor which would improve access and make public transportation improvements more likely.

Monday’s meeting, held at White Rock Christian Academy, was organized by opponents to gather questions and concerns regarding the South Surrey project. Organizer Kristen Smith said concerns heard included the additional pressure the project would put on already-crowded area schools and Peace Arch Hospital; increased crime; shadow impact of the towers on property values and quality of life; and the proposed OCP amendments.

“If this passes, then there won’t be anything we can do to prevent towers in our Semiahmoo area,” she told PAN.

Smith also raised the issue of whether Surrey council should be voting on a development in which the city is a shareholder. The project is a co-operative effort of the Reifel Cook Group and the Surrey City Development Corporation, the latter of which is owned by the city.

“How can council objectively vote on this proposed development?” she put to the crowd.

Davis told PAN the information and questions gathered at the meeting will be compiled and provided to both Surrey council and the architect, with the hopes they’ll be addressed at a joint meeting in the near future.

She said she is not opposed to growth, but said the infrastructure needs to be in place first.

“Make sure that the growth is thought out and planned… before you actually start the process,” she said.

A petition against the project garnered three pages of signatures Monday.

Smith encouraged those who want to get involved or who are looking for more information to visit the Facebook page she has created – www.facebook.com/semiahmootowers – where she’ll post updates and other details as they become known.

 

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