Metro Vancouver officials want to hear what the public has to say about a request from the City of Surrey to amend the regional growth strategy to accommodate a significant development in the Hazelmere Valley.
MV spokesman Greg Valou confirmed the board voted last Friday to direct staff to draft an amendment bylaw to redesignate the lands in question to general urban from rural.
The amendment is needed to accommodate an application to build 145 single-family homes on 129 acres owned by Hazelmere Golf & Tennis Club.
“I do think… it would benefit from having the full public-hearing process that the regional growth strategy affords it,” Metro director Andrea Reimer said, during discussion of the matter Feb. 23. “I think it would behoove us to at least go through one proper public hearing.”
The vote goes against a recommendation by staff to decline the City of Surrey’s amendment request.
In a Feb. 2 report, Metro senior regional planner Terry Hoff explains the proposed amendment “primarily and fundamentally” impacts urban containment provisions within the RGS – referred to within the report as Metro 2040 – and has “related implications” for other Metro 2040 goals.
It “would contribute to sprawling urban growth and has not been justified through land capacity restraints,” the report states.
“If approved, (it) would signal… that the fundamental Metro 2040 urban containment goals and strategies are not viable. The proposed amendment challenges the most fundamental elements of Metro 2040.”
Valou said delegations heard at last week’s meeting helped sway directors’ support to move the amendment bylaw forward.
Those included an endorsement of the project from Semiahmoo First Nation Chief Harley Chappell, who spoke to the project’s benefit to the band, its lands and the environment. Others pointed to benefits including that it will help bring “idle farmland… back to useful crop production.”
Surrey council voted 6-2 last September to give the plan – proposed by Lapierre Holdings and Hazelmere for 18115 18147 and 18253 0 Ave. – third reading.
The majority of the property, located across the street from the U.S. boundary, is owned by Hazelmere.
The proponents have described the project as key to the golf course’s continued viability; a “strategic move” by Hazelmere to counter a declining trend in the golf industry.
If approved, it would also include a return of 10.7 acres of golf-course land to the ALR; three acres of park; and protection of 7.8 acres of natural area, Maggie Koka, agent for the developer, told council in September.
Opponents have expressed concern with the infrastructure required, as well as with impacts on the area’s aquifers, schools, traffic volumes and the Little Campbell River.
At Friday’s board meeting, Sarah Rush, representing Friends of Hazelmere Campbell Valley, appealed for the application to be denied, describing it as “urban sprawl.”
Surrey Coun. Mike Starchuk, an alternate board director, urged fellow directors to support the project, noting “hard boundaries” had been set to control the setbacks from agricultural land, and that farming activity triggered by the proposal is “second-to-none.”
Richmond Coun. Harold Steves, however, cautioned against making deals to gain agricultural land.
“When you start playing around with agricultural lands, you are actually increasing the speculative value of all the neighbouring lands, and this is what this proposal does,” Steves said.
A date for a public hearing has not been set.
City of Surrey general manager of planning and development confirmed the amendment is vital to the development.
“If Metro Vancouver Board did not support the project, the proposed development could not proceed,” he told Peace Arch News by email.