Gary Cameron and Victoria Blinkhorn represent Grandview Heights residents who oppose a duplex project eyed for the 16600-block of 26 Avenue.

Development opponents say rejection will be short-lived

Grandview Heights duplex development turned down by Surrey council

A proposal to build 16 duplex units across the street from homes on acreage in Grandview Heights was denied third reading at Surrey City Hall last week.

But residents who oppose the project stopped well short of calling the move a victory, saying the message from council is that duplexes on the site will still be the end result.

“We might as well not even showed up,” said Gary Cameron, of the July 27 decision regarding Tara Developments’ application for the 16600-block of 26 Avenue. “There was no indication (council) heard anything we said about the development.”

Tara Developments has applied to build 16 semi-detached units and one single-family home on approximately two acres.

The application received first and second reading on July 13, despite a planning report recommending council refer the project back to staff and the applicant “for further dialogue with area residents to address outstanding issues.”

Those issues include that residents do not want high-density in the area. They want development that is more consistent with what already exists: single-family homes, and sensitive transitions that protect the neighbourhood from encroaching urbanization.

Following a public hearing July 27, council voted 5-3 against giving the application third reading, then, on a motion from Coun. Dave Woods, voted to refer it back to staff.

Cameron – who helped collect more than 350 signatures in a week on a petition against the application – said the message he heard from council Monday is that a similar project will ultimately proceed.

“They were basically saying the will of council is, we’re going to keep high-density duplexes,” he told Peace Arch News.

“It’s been sent back. But we’ve been told it’s going to be roughly the same development no matter what. It wasn’t a resounding victory by any means.”

Residents told council the developer has refused to consider their concerns, which include that the project does not fit with the character of the large-lot neighbourhood. Other developers have been much more receptive to compromises, they said.

That point was reiterated a number of times during Monday’s public hearing, prior to the votes.

One speaker said Tara Developments’ plan shows “no consistency but a jarring disconnect.” Another speaker, Sandra Houghton, asked council to “not allow developers to compromise our standards.”

Resident Mike Proskow said the proponent “has chosen to advance a plan for the community that puts them at odds with every stakeholder involved.”

Architect Mark Ankenman, however, disputed the comments and noted the project falls within the guidelines of the Neighbourhood Concept Plan, completed in 2012.

“If there’s a range of opportunities in the NCP that the neighbourhood doesn’t want, then that range of opportunities shouldn’t be in the NCP,” he said, noting the increased density cited “ain’t us,” but will come from a project going in behind Tara Developments’.

Ankenman told council he regrets getting to this point in the process without an agreement with neighbours.

“It’s a growing community and what we’re trying to do is densify in the most sensitive way,” he said. “Believe me, neighbours, I have been respectful.”

In voicing opposition to third reading, Coun. Judy Villeneuve noted the residents’ interest for more dialogue. The petition, she added, is “something that we need to listen to.”

“I hope if it’s referred back to planning, then somebody will move,” she said. “I do believe that a sensitive interface is important… and this project just isn’t there yet.”

Mayor Linda Hepner, noting her support for the project, described it as a good compromise that will provide more options for people who want to live in properties that look like large estate homes but can’t afford to.

In bringing forward his motion, Woods said he did not have a problem with the duplexes’ design, just that they were too “squished together.”

He’s also concerned about the impasse between the applicant and residents.

“There has to be movement,” he said. “There has to be movement big-time, and there has to be compromise.”

Villeneuve agreed there are possibilities for the site – including that of large, single-family homes – “if there would be some compromise and some work on this application.”

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