Contributed photo Residents peruse the latest proposal eyed for the former site of the Rosemary Heights Retreat Centre.

Residents encourage city to create park on former retreat-centre property

278 townhomes, 23 houses planned for Rosemary Heights site

Plans to develop the former site ofthe Rosemary Heights Retreat Centre in South Surrey continue to raise concerns for residents, who say the bluff property – located above the Nicomekl River – is no place for 300 units of housing.

“I’m suggesting that council should take a stand and say no to this whole development plan for Porte (Communities) and make it a park and community centre,” longtime area resident Mindi Hardiman, referring to a letter she is forwarding to Surrey council this week regarding Porte’s proposal for the site, said Monday.

“Why not go with something like that and provide a legacy to the community?”

The 28-acre parcel in question is located in the 3600-block of 152 Street, stretching to 154 Street on the east, and from 36 Avenue to the bluff.

Initially eyed for more than 300 townhomes and 30 single-family homes, Porte is now proposing 278 townhomes and 23 single-family homes on the site.

Company president, David Porte, was not available to comment by Peace Arch News press deadline Tuesday morning. However, he told PAN last June that he was “well aware” that area residents had concern with regard to what’s in store for the site.

According to one of several display boards mounted at a May 10 public information meeting, plans also include an 800-metre greenway atop the Nicomekl connecting to the Rosemary Wynd greenway at 154, and an extension of the pathway along 152 Street.

In addition to increased traffic and congestion in the already busy Rosemary Heights neighbourhood, residents’ concerns include lack of school space, lack of infrastructure and the loss of the green space.

Hardiman noted the site is zoned for institutional use, and said the Rosemary Heights NCP was developed with that in mind. Had it been zoned for housing, “there’s no way we would’ve designed the traffic roads the way they are,” she said.

Patrick Abadi, a 10-year resident and member of the group Save Rosemary Heights, said he, too, wants the city to acquire the land and create a park.

“I’m actually trying to start a petition,” he said.

After speaking with city planners, Abadi said he is somewhat optimistic it could become a reality.

“It is a possibility, it’s a bit of a long shot, too,” he said. “My focus is trying to get Surrey to recognize… it’s to the benefit of the community.”

Both Abadi and Hardiman said the majority of the 100-plus residents who turned out to last week’s public information meeting were not happy with Porte’s plans.

“There was a lot of people yelling at the developers,” Abadi said.

He said one point of contention is that the location means there would be no left-turn exit onto 152 Street from the development; instead, two exits are eyed for an “already very congested” 154 Street.

“The main entrance would be at the backside. That makes a huge problem,” he said.

Hardiman said residents are focused on maintaining the “unique character” of the neighbourhood. And that, she said, “is not going to exist if Porte is allowed to do what they want to do.”

“We see development as inevitable,” she said. “But we want it to be reasonable and in the context of what the plan for the NCP was in the first place.”

City officials said Monday that the application is in the “preliminary review stage.” It has not yet gone to council, and no public hearing has been set, area planning manager Ron Hintsche told PAN by email.

Comments submitted at the information meeting are still being compiled, Hinstche added.

“Planning staff will be reviewing the comments and will then determine the next steps in the application process.”

In February, during discussion of a subdivision application in the area, councillors expressed concern about overcapacity schools and congested roads. One described existing congestion as “making the area pretty unlivable for people that have to commute in and out.”

“Quite frankly, I don’t support any development right in this area at the moment,” Coun. Dave Woods said at the time. “That whole area is seriously congested. Until there’s an upgrade to that underpass, it’s only going to get worse.”

Still, more developments are eyed for the neighbourhood. Monday evening, an information meeting was held regarding a plan for property at 156 Street and 40 Avenue.

A public hearing for an 87-townhome project proposed for a site near 156 Street and 30 Avenue is set for May 29.