Bob Gardner (left) and Paul Barclay tour the property leading to McNally Creek.

Bob Gardner (left) and Paul Barclay tour the property leading to McNally Creek.

Neighbours concerned over development plan

South Surrey proposal for land bordering salmon-bearing creek not set in stone, proponents say.

A rezoning application for a property in South Surrey bordering on a salmon-bearing creek is receiving a ‘thumbs down’ from area residents while still at what a City of Surrey notice describes as “a very preliminary stage.”

The application, filed by H.Y. Engineering Ltd. as an agent for the owner, Bassi Properties Inc., is for a 2.8-acre strip of land north of 10 Avenue between 162 and 163 Streets.

At present, it contains one older home slated for demolition and a largely forest area of second-growth trees that date from after the area was first homesteaded in the early 20th century – with a few large cedars and Douglas firs that residents believe could be first-growth, as much as several hundred years old.

The property also includes a curved stretch of McNally Creek, known as a year-round salmonid habitat, which borders half of the eastern boundary of the property.

Bassi has asked for a rezoning from One Acre Residential (RA) to Single Family Residential Gross Density (RF-G) for the construction of 12 homes – four along 10 Avenue and eight around a proposed cul-de-sac extension of 10A Avenue.

But that’s not set in stone, Bassi partner Shari Boyal told Peace Arch News Monday.

Boyal said the city requires a number of reports, including arborist, engineering and environmental assessments, which will determine what the final plan for the property would look like and how many houses will ultimately be permitted.

“The city will look into it,” he said. “The development process is not easy – it may take seven to eight months before we have any answers.”

Bob and Penny Gardner and Paul Barclay are among 63 area residents who have already signed a petition against the proposed rezoning. They say that density would be stridently out of character for the single-family neighbourhood that also includes a city-recognized and provincially-protected  ‘riparian corridor’ – home to eagles, herons and other migratory and non-migratory birds and a habitat  for other wildlife, including deer.

“The environmental impact is what most people seem most concerned about,” Barclay said, noting the proposed site is also upstream from the Semiahmoo First Nation, who should, he said, also be consulted about environmental effects that could impact their lands.

“The (federal) Department of Fisheries and Oceans recognizes it as a salmon stream, and they did upgrades to it several years ago,” said Gardner.

Under current federal law, the proponents would have to show that “no harm will come to the salmon,” Barclay said.

And under current regulations for riparian corridors, they say, there would have to be a 30-metre natural buffer from either the centre of the stream or the top of the steep slope leading down to the creek – which would also take a significant bite out of the developable area of the property.

Considering the status that the McNally Creek corridor already receives in the city’s Biodiversity Strategy and Green Infrastructure Network, it would be logical, residents say, for the land to be purchased by the city for preservation as parkland.

“If it’s got to be developed, you’d have to be very careful about how it was done and aware of the environmental sensitivity,” Gardner said.

Allowing the density proposed would be the thin end of the wedge for one of the few remaining areas of its kind in Surrey, Penny Gardner agreed.

“The concern is it would set the template for others,” she said.