A small but passionate group has stalled a large residential development planned for Panorama.
On Monday evening, a handful of concerned residents spoke passionately about a housing development planned just northwest of Highway 10 and 152 Street that they say will put increased strain on already overcrowded schools in the area.
About 75 people filed into Surrey council chambers and lined up to speak both for and against a 181-townhouse, 106-apartment development planned for 5750 Panorama Dr.
Opponent Cindy Dalglish, who runs the website southnewtoncommunity.com, said in advance of the meeting that she was working to have the meeting packed.
“We’ll be there, hopefully in droves,” Dalglish said. “We’re going to go door-to-door (in advance), explaining the situation. We’re doing a social-media push and a media advisory as well.”
She also noted the Surrey Teachers’ Association would sending out notices to its membership asking them to attend the meeting.
Dalglish said she was distressed by the low turn out, and said her neighbours probably thought it was a foregone conclusion and that council had likely already made up its mind to green light the project.
However, at the end of the night, Coun. Tom Gill put forward a motion to have the development sent back to staff so that the applicant can work with the school district to ensure there is adequate space for the anticipated population.
His motion passed unanimously.
Developer James Redekop, of Redekop Homes, was dumbfounded by council’s decision to send the development back to staff.
He said after the meeting he was unclear on what the motion by Gill is asking for and said he would have to review it before figuring out what to do next.
The embattled developer said he wondered if council just preferred he took his business elsewhere.
Earlier in the evening, Surrey resident Jennifer Doerksen (pictured left) said she doesn’t live in the area but that the development impacts her greatly.
Doerksen said her family has had to pick up and move every time a French-immersion program gets cut in the school district.
“So, my 11-year-old daughter is going to get up in the morning and, instead of walking to Lord Tweedsmuir (in Cloverdale), she’ll hear the morning bell at Tweedsmuir (and) walk for 45 minutes to get to the new school she will be moved to,” Doerksen told council. “She can’t walk up the hill and take the bus, because there is not bus going to the new school.”
Several speakers expressed great concern over the increased traffic on the already strained 152 Street and Highway 10.
“It is an absolute horrendous gong show,” one woman told council.
Eight-year-old Olivia Stemler (left) said she insisted her mother take her to Surrey council chambers so that she could plead with them to help save the bunnies that live at the development site.
Once in front of the crowd, she became timid but stepped up to the microphone nonetheless and expressed her concerns about the wildlife on the property.
She’s also concerned about the loss of green space.
“We won’t have room to play, because our grass field will get crowded with portables,” Olivia told council. “The only place our whole school will be able to play is the grass field.
“Thanks very much.”
Several other speakers spoke in favour of the project, saying it “checked all the boxes” for housing they were looking for.
After the hearing, Dalglish, who has led the charge for schools in the area, said she will regroup, and figure out how to put pressure on the province for school capital funding.
The opposition to the development comes after an April 21 motion by the school board to “temporarily suspend all new development approvals in the Clayton, Grandview/South Surrey and Newton regions until the Surrey School District receives adequate provincial funding to support the growing numbers of students moving into these regions.”
Trustee Laurae McNally noted Surrey is the province’s biggest school district and the overflow from currently crowded schools could easily fill 30 new schools right now.
Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner said the city is drafting a school capital construction plan for the province to address the problem before it gets worse.