Geoff Barker, the developer behind one of the more modern neighbourhoods in South Surrey, remembers the challenge of pricing the 10,000-sq.-ft. lots in Morgan Creek 24 years ago.
Potential homeowners bought into the planned neighbourhood on a promise of it being a golf-course community, something Barker said there was a pent-up demand for.
Morgan Creek Holdings – directed by Barker – and partner Canlan settled on a price-tag of $210,000-$225,000 for non-golf-course lots and $250,000-$265,000 for golf-course lots.
Sixteen phases later, the lots now go for a premium.
“The most recent sale of a vacant lot happened just a few months ago. A couple of doors down from our office, there was a house fire. What was left of the house was a write-off, so it was demolished and the vacant lot sold for $1.5 million,” Baker told Peace Arch News last week.
Twenty-five years ago, the 340-acre area – divided by more than 30 parcels of land – was nothing more than farmland. Barker recounts roaming cows taking a drink from the creek; and an old farmer’s tale that somewhere near one of the 788 total units that currently sit on the property, there’s a dead horse buried by a farmer.
The land was assembled and a concept of the golf-course community was put forward by Gordon Cameron of Canlan. Morgan Creek Holdings did not come in as joint venture partner until after the city-approval stage in 1993.
The two companies worked together until the market started to slow from 1996 to 1998. Canlan pulled out of the land-development business to focus on building and managing ice rinks, and Morgan Creek Holdings took full ownership of the project.
Barker said the development process went relatively smooth, aside from one hiccup in the late ’90s.
MCH planned to develop a plethora of smaller (7,500-8,000 sq.-ft.) and cheaper lots along 156B Street and 38A Avenue.
“At the time, other people thought we were creating a ghetto,” Barker said, recalling how a TV reporter came to the neighbourhood and told him she could easily live in this “ghetto.”
“Nobody talks about that phase anymore, its a beautiful phase,” Barker said.
Now at age 64, Barker says he’s ready to retire, but wants to finish the Morgan Creek development before he does.
There’s just one phase that stands in his way, Pinehurst.
The 17th phase has generated a lot of controversy from neighbours in the area. The plan calls for eight detached homes, 38 attached homes and two three-storey apartment buildings that will include 51 units at 3375 Morgan Creek Way.
There was a public hearing for the project last month, and 15 neighbouring residents spoke in opposition to the apartment buildings but in favour of more townhouses.
During the hearing, Coun. Judy Villeneuve said she received close to 70 letters from people opposed.
Barker says the strong opposition was generated through a campaign of misinformation.
“The day of the public hearing, this email went out…. It was one of those ‘the sky is falling’ emails. It had five bullet-points opposing this, (and) of the five, three of them were completely false,” Barker said.
One of the points that Barker says was inaccurate was that the new development would create a shortage of available parking.
“We are required to have 21 visitor stalls, we have 57. Every townhouse not only has two car parking – some of them three – we’ve got a 25-foot driveway where you can put two visitors. Every apartment has two underground parking stalls. There’s just ample parking,” Barker said.
Surrey council listened to more than an hour of comments in opposition of the project at the public hearing. Although parking seemed to be a key concern for residents, several mentioned “bumper-to-bumper” traffic during the start of the school day near Morgan Elementary.
“You know what, that exists,” Barker said.
One area resident said the three-storey buildings are out of character for Morgan Creek, and he would like the project redesigned so it “reflects a more friendly and consistent style” of the rest of the neighbourhood. Several speakers at the public hearing suggested there would be a larger number of residents in opposition of the project, but many were described as “snowbirds” and unable to attend.
“They were trying to claim that, but I don’t think that’s true,” Barker said.
“The people who want these apartment condos are all down south right now.”
Barker said supporters of the project sent letters to the city but didn’t feel it necessary to speak at the public hearing. He said people tend to feel more passionately and strongly about things they don’t like than things they do like.
“We got a lot of baby boomers, and we get a little grumpy as we age. And we feel more strongly about things we don’t like and that brings these people out,” he said.
City councillors sent the project back to city staff and directed staff to work with the community and developer to find a consensus.
“I don’t know if Pinehurst is going to go yet. We’re still talking to the city, we don’t know what changes we have to make. I’m hoping for the best,” he said. “I want to finish what I started, I’m proud of it.”
Below: Photographs show the development of Morgan Creek, starting with a view of the eighth fairway of the golf course in 1993.