A public information meeting for a 330-home development proposal in Rosemary Heights drew more than 125 people to Morgan Creek Golf Course on Thursday (June 9).
The presentation, by Porte Communities, included a concept plan for some 300 high, medium and low-density townhomes, plus 30 single family homes for a 28-acre parcel at 3660 and 3690 152 St.
Currently zoned for institutional use only, the predominantly forest property includes the Rosemary Heights Retreat Centre, overlooking the Nikomekl River.
While described as “an exciting opportunity” by Porte, the proposal seemed to be receiving a mixed reaction from those attending the meeting, while project representatives assured questioners that nothing in the plan is “set in stone.”
The proposal has already received push-back from some neighborhood residents, who say they plan to create a Rosemary Heights community association to ensure the existing Neighborhood Concept Plan overrides rezoning for the proposed development.
One of those residents, Scott Branden, was outside the meeting room Thursday, taking names and addresses with the aim of creating an email list of people who “have concerns about the project.”
The area is still owned by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Vancouver, which closed the retreat in December citing declining interest in booking such facilities.
A statement released by the Archdiocese at the time said that it “hopes to realize the best value possible for the Rosemary Heights property.”
A timeline on one of the information boards at the meeting showed that a rezoning application is expected to be submitted this summer, with a City of Surrey open house to follow in early fall, leading into a city application review in the fall and winter.
Depending on approval, Porte is aiming at a summer 2017 start on subdivision and offsite servicing, with phased construction beginning in the fall, and completion of the last phase projected for late 2020.
“We’re at an early stage right now,” company president David Porte told Peace Arch News at the beginning of the meeting, noting that comment sheets were also being circulated to all attendees.
“We want to talk to the community and get their feedback,” he said, adding that he had already heard from some residents who viewed the proposal as ” a positive change for the neighborhood.”
The presentation boards asserted that the project fits in with existing NCP principles by employing a ‘west coast design aesthetic’ and creating pathways that connect to an existing neighborhood greenway, plus creating a new greenway at the top of the river embankment.
“Approximately six acres will be dedicated parkland, while residential development will be clustered to retain as many trees as possible…natural areas that possess high environmental sensitivity will be protected and designated for open space purposes,” the presentation noted.
A comprehensive traffic study will examine access to the development “via car, bicycle, pedestrian (traffic) and transit” it said.
But none of these assurances are enough for Branden, who told PAN following the meeting that the proposal “is only maximizing land use and profit.”
“I gathered over 100 names and I’d say around 80 per cent of those attending were very concerned and about it and signed up for the email list,” he said.
“Everyone has a really ill feeling about what having 330 more homes will mean to traffic, schools and to the community itself – as well as disrupting the woodlands,” he added,
“There is an NCP in place that was worked on and agreed on. We moved to the neighborhood about six years ago based on this and the feeling that this was what the neighbourhood was like and how it would be in the future.”
Branden said the only anticipated redevelopment of the retreat land was for a long-awaited high school in the neighborhood.
Even though such a development would result in an unfortunate loss of tree canopy, he said, it would still be within the scope of the existing institutional zoning – and wouldn’t have the same impact as the higher-density residential development proposed.
Branden said he couldn’t suggest a residential alternative for the land that would be likely to meet with neighbourhood approval.
“I don’t have a solution for a problem that doesn’t exist,” he said.