Criticisms over South Surrey 'live/work' plan
A proposed self-storage development planned for Rosemary Heights’ Live/Work Neighbourhood Concept Plan has raised concerns among nearby residents, who fear the project could attract crime to the area.
The Southpointe Mini Storage project for 31 Avenue at Croydon Drive has received third reading from Surrey council, with fourth reading yet to be scheduled.
Wayne Mercer, who lives in the Nuvo 2 townhouse development east of the site, submitted a residents’ petition against the development at a public hearing in November.
Among points raised are the potential impact on traffic along 31 Avenue (principal access for both the Headwaters condominiums and Nuvo townhouses), the location of the main entrance and the ramp to underground parking, the impact on a riparian area bordering the proposed storage building and whether the market for storage facilities is already saturated. Mercer also raised concerns around the hours of operation, light pollution and the potential for criminal activities or “unauthorized businesses” in and near the storage units.
But developer Norm Porter said such concerns are unfounded because of stringent requirements already imposed by the city.
Porter noted the project is contingent on a number of conditions, including a servicing agreement, as well as economic factors.
Even after fourth reading, he said, plans would need to be assembled before construction could start, and that “the building-plan process would take six more months, at least.”
Porter said he believes many of the concerns voiced are rooted in outmoded perceptions of storage units and security lighting.
“There’s no recorded correlation between criminal activity and modern-day storage facilities,” he said, noting Surrey’s design concepts ensure storage buildings resemble offices, more than the old stereotype of a one-storey, metal-doored storage-unit park.
“Modern-day security offers less light pollution than a large parking lot.”
The Southpointe plan includes three buildings – a 24,831-sq.-ft. four-storey mini-storage building, with two smaller two-storey office buildings on either side of 31 Avenue. A BC Hydro right-of-way between the buildings would be used for parking.
Porter noted commercial and light-industrial uses are permitted under current zoning and said that should come as no surprise to residents of nearby developments, which – like the proposal – are part of the live/work plan for Rosemary Heights Business Park.
The Surrey City Development Corporation, he noted, is planning a 100,000-sq.-ft. office building across 31 Avenue from the proposal.
“Anybody who lives there knew that going in,” he said, adding the zoning allows townhouse residents to conduct their own in-home businesses, complete with business parking.
However, Mercer said any comparison between the development proposed and potential activity in home businesses is “laughable.”
“There is no doubt that we knew that the area where we have purchased townhomes was zoned for home-based businesses when we purchased,” Mercer said. “We have also seen the development of office buildings along Croydon and, in fact, we have no argument with the office-building component of the application in question.
“(But) even if every homeowner was operating a home-based business, the activity at the proposed mini-storage site would be in the range of seven times the potential for traffic and noise – especially at night.”
Mercer – a former manager of community bylaws for the City of Richmond – said that in his experience, zones that include such a mix of uses are likely to create friction.
“The juxtaposition of these severely divergent types of property use consistently cause problems, especially when the residential component is in place first.”
Ron Hintsche, Surrey’s manager of current planning for the south, said the Nuvo and Headwater townhouse projects had been approved as live-work residences as a transitional zone to complement the existing business and industrial zoning in the area.
“I don’t know how many residents have taken advantage of the live-work option, but it is in the nature of that area,” he said.
“It’s designated for this type of land use. It could have been a business park, but office buildings and mini warehouses are acceptable to us, and the developer feels that’s what’s viable for the property, given the hydro right-of-way.”
Hintsche said the city is “basically satisfied” the project meets requirements for both the official community plan and neighbourhood community plan.
“The project was reviewed at the advisory design panel back in June,” he said, adding that it also received RCMP oversight in keeping with the Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design initiative.
He said a key safety concern was who would have access to the building after hours, and that “only those who have storage units would have access.”
Mercer, however, noted such a system only limits access to those who pay their rent.
“Growers of marijuana and operators of unlicensed businesses could operate all night, and operators of chemical labs would have no problem paying the monthly rent,” he said.
“The hours of operation (would) permit access 24 hours a day, seven days a week – only a fraction of which is supervised.”
Mercer said he and other residents are yet to be convinced such a development is necessary in the first place.
“(We need) some independent and knowledgeable documentation to indicate that there is indeed a demand or need for a mini-storage complex of this magnitude, in what I understand is already a saturated market for storage in Surrey and the Lower Mainland,” he said.
The issue is an important one, he said, to “the professionals, young families and retirees who have invested in the residential developments on this section of 31 Avenue and do not want to see their investments devalued by a poorly planned and unnecessary development which could turn into a crime-ridden white elephant.”