The City of White Rock has given formal approval to the Metro Vancouver 2050 Regional Growth Strategy following a Zoom appearance by Metro Vancouver representatives at the June 27 council meeting.
The regional body’s board chair, Sav Dhaliwal, along with chief administrative officer and commissioner Jerry Dobrovolny, and general manager of regional planning and housing services Heather McNell participated to respond to concerns voiced by council members at the June 13 meeting, which had led to a reluctance to sign off on the strategy.
Council had heard at that time that any dispute with a member municipality would require resolution before the strategy could go to third reading by the Metro Vancouver board.
A motion to accept the growth strategy – with the proviso that staff contact Surrey’s planning department to determine a way to work collaboratively on the development of the Semiahmoo Town Centre plan – was ultimately approved by Mayor Darryl Walker, and Couns. Anthony Manning, Scott Kristjanson and Erika Johanson, with Couns. David Chesney and Christopher Trevelyan voting in the negative.
Both the regional representatives and White Rock’s director of planning and development services, Anne Berry – in a separate corporate report – were at pains to reassure council members that the 2050 strategy does a better job of addressing multiple concerns, including environmental issues, First Nations consultation, affordable housing, transportation planning and inter-member co-operation, than the current 2040 strategy, which has been in place since 2011.
Acknowledging White Rock concerns about the MVRD board decision to amend the strategy to permit Surrey to pursue industrial development of the ecologically-sensitive South Campbell Heights area, McNell noted that the amendment was passed under the existing 2040 plan, rather than the more stringent limitations of the 2050 plan.
“It was not an easy decision,” she said. The board was very close in terms of its vote given the strong perspectives on both sides of the issue.
“If Metro 2050 had been in place, some of the policies that you’ve highlighted would have been utilized in the evaluation of that application.
The policies in 2050…are stronger and enable a more rigorous evaluation that considers, primarily the protection of the environment in response to climate change. Things like the protection of aquifers, dealing with sea-level rise, the protection of eco-systems and so on.”
But if Metro 2050 is not adopted, McNell said, “we will continue referring to the policies in our current regional growth strategy for future applications.”
Manning reiterated concerns that the downstream effects of decisions like South Campbell Heights could ultimately pose a threat to White Rock’s aquifer, prompting a necessity to connect to the MVRD water system, which city taxpayers could not afford.
But Dobrovolny and McNell underlined that the 2050 strategy provides far more scope for containing downstream effects.
It even goes so far as to allow member municipalities to make greater planning changes, even the ability to re-evaluate and downsize long-established town centres, they said.
“We are learning from past experience,” Dhaliwal said. “The old plan…did not provide sufficient protection on many fronts.
“I continue to believe that even the project at Campbell Heights, although a go-ahead has been given, a lot of work needs to be done, in phase two, for example.
“I believe the citizens of Surrey, the citizens of White Rock will be there to make sure that development, when it does happen, happens in a way that has minimal impact.”