Rapid development in Surrey is among concerns cited by the Surrey Board of Trade in a six-page letter to council.

Rapid development in Surrey is among concerns cited by the Surrey Board of Trade in a six-page letter to council.

Surrey Board of Trade offers cautious support to proposed tax hike

Proposed 3.9 per cent tax boost prompts recommendations including return of affordable-housing levy in Surrey.

The Surrey Board of Trade may be backing the city’s proposed 2016 tax hike – a 3.9 per cent jump – but officials have made it clear they still have considerable concerns they would like city leaders to address.

In a six-page letter to council, board CEO Anita Huberman summarizes recommendations for areas including development and land use, the cultural grants process, light rail, anti-gang programming, disclosure of work done by council’s audit committee and affordable housing.

Regarding the latter, Huberman notes the city’s rapid growth in residential development, if it continues, “will drive longtime Surrey residents out of areas that are seeing the most development and displace residents who have deep roots in their community.”

Huberman encourages council to “take a leadership role in protecting longtime residents and ensuring Surrey is a welcoming community for all residents and not just those who can still afford it.”

She recommends Surrey re-introduce an affordable-housing levy on new residential developments and mandate that affordable housing comprise part of each of those developments.

At the same time, Huberman is encouraging council to establish a “Nexus Lane” policy to streamline processes for developers with significant track records in Surrey. Approval, she notes “should be positive experience with development in Surrey and not focused on the size or financial status of any individual developer.”

Huberman also expressed concern over findings of a review of council’s audit committee that showed repeated use of a section under the Community Charter that allows parts of a council meeting to be closed to the public.

“As a result, the extent of the committee’s work to review the reports of Internal Audit is not available to the public,” she writes.

Huberman suggested council review use of the charter section and expand disclosure where appropriate.

Other recommendations in the letter include better disclosure of arts and culture expenditures “for greater clarity of the budget dollars flowing to arts and culture”; continue efforts to move light rail forward; and provide supportive programming for youth geared to avoiding gang-related crime.