A public hearing regarding a proposed bylaw amendment that would facilitate a 145-lot subdivision in the Hazelmere Valley drew around 75 people to Metro Vancouver’s Burnaby boardroom Wednesday night.
In all, 37 attendees voiced opinions that ranged from a simple statement of support to more lengthy, detailed opinions on the pros or cons of proposed changes to Metro’s regional growth strategy.
No decision was made, however, Metro chair Greg Moore advised attendees the matter will be on the board’s June 22 agenda.
If approved, the changes – requested by the City of Surrey – would redesignate a 23.7-hectare site on 0 Avenue, between 180 and 184 streets, to general urban from rural and extend the urban containment boundary to encompass the new general-urban area.
If rejected, the proposed subdivision could not proceed.
The board heard Wednesday that current zoning of the site, which is largely owned by Hazelmere Golf & Tennis Club, allows for low-density residential.
A general-urban designation, however, “permits all forms of higher-density development,” Metro’s manager of growth management and transportation James Stiver told the board.
Opponents of Surrey’s request said the impact to wildlife, crop diversity and Little Campbell River watershed, a lack of benefits to the larger community, increased traffic and land speculation were among concerns with the proposed “urban island.”
“The speculators are floating around like vultures right now trying to make money on that land,” said David Rush, who described himself as a resident of 8 Avenue.
Farmer Wilfred Jeffries said reports the lands are not farmable are false, and that “it should not be lost on this board, the people living in this area overwhelmingly oppose” the application.
Metro Vancouver senior staff recommended in a February report that the application be denied.
Supporters – who included Surrey Board of Trade chief executive officer Anita Huberman, Hazelmere golf course staff and members of the Semiahmoo First Nation – said it will create jobs, is currently “severely under-used real estate” and that the project is “unprecedented” with regard to efforts to involve the SFN in the process.
SFN Chief Harley Chappell also praised that aspect, noting it was the reason the band’s most senior elder – the mother of councillor Joanne Charles – insisted on attending Wednesday.
“The reason she came here and wanted to be here was, she said, ‘You’re finally at the table,’” Chappell said.
“We’ve been occupying that area for the past 10,000 years, and we’re finally now coming to the table to be part of the discussion. I find that is such a step in the right direction.”
Chappell said the band wanted to be part of “good development.”
“Raising the standard and raising the bar within our traditional territory is extremely important to us.”
Andrew Baker, an engineer on the project, said plans, which include sanitary sewer services, will result in “a better way to protect the Little Campbell Watershed… than past practices.”
While one consultant suggested the development “is a win-win for agriculture and the environment,” numerous speakers disagreed.
Myles Lamont, a biologist and 0 Avenue resident, asked directors if it was Metro’s mandate “to support failing golf industries.”
The project has been described as critical to the viability of the golf course.
Lamont argued it wasn’t appropriate to change the regional growth strategy “simply to bolster a local business that is failing.”
Another man who said he lives in the townhomes that were built next to the golf course in 2002 said he would support the proposed development if he didn’t live where he does. He described the project as “just an average development.”
While the split of those who spoke for and against was near even, one attendee noted he had also submitted 260 letters of support from people throughout Metro Vancouver.
At least 13 directors were absent from Wednesday’s hearing.
The June 22 board meeting is to get underway at 9 a.m.