Surrey city council’s first public hearing Monday, Nov. 14 tackled proposals to build 1,900 dwellings in North Surrey, mostly in towers.
Applicant RDG Guildford East Development Ltd. applied to build at 14723 - 104 Avenue an 18-storey residential tower and a 24-storey mixed-use building containing 430 dwelling units, near Guildford Town Centre.
Nine people registered their opposition but didn’t speak.
“As if the Guildford area needed this development,” Richard Landale told council, noting that 28 trees “are to come down.”
“This is a good example of urban clear-cut,” said Deb Jack, president of Surrey Environmental Partners. Three other speakers voice opposition to the application, arguing that schools are overcrowded in the area and more are needed.
Colin Hogan, of Focus Architecture Inc., told council that as far as traffic is concerned the density proposed is “effectively the same as what’s being permitted today.”
He noted that under the Stage 2 Guildford Neighbourhood Plan “there are a number of school sites that are designated in the immediate area.”
Later in the meeting, the Surrey Connect majority denied third reading, on a 5-4 vote. Mayor Brenda Locke said the application should be sent back to city staff for more consultation.
“The schools in that area, and I know them all too well, are already very crowded,” she said. “That area is already under a lot of pressure right now.”
Coun. Mandeep Nagra noted it takes “years and years” for such projects to get before council “and now we’re sending it back for some minor consultations.
“That’s going to take another year, maybe a year and a half. I mean, you know, the applicants have done all their due diligence and staff have recommended this project so I fully support this and I think we need to look at how we’re going to proceed with the future developments, we can’t just send the projects back just to do more, you know, a few more consultations like that.”
Coun. Rob Stutt said the project represents a “significant undertaking and it just absolutely overwhelms the infrastructure, particularly with respect to schools.”
Coun. Linda Annis noted while Surrey could be considered “the portable capital of British Columbia for schools,” the city also has a “huge problem” with housing “and I don’t think that we can be turning something like this back at this stage, I think we need to get on with it.”
Coun. Mike Bose said delaying projects like this one by another year or more, “We’re just impacting the affordability of housing in the city.” Coun. Doug Elford echoed that. “We get criticized for not having enough housing and yet here we are stalling it, we need to move forward with this.”
Meantime, third reading was carried on RDG Guildford West Development Ltd.’s proposal to build at 14683 - 104 Avenue two six-storey apartment buildings with 187 dwelling units and underground parking.
Seven people registered their opposition at the public hearing on this one and of those who did speak, three expressed similar concerns to the previous project about there not being enough schools in the area to sustain an increased population and that this project would push more children into school portables. Locke apologizes to 7 residents banned from council chambers on McCallum’s watch
Landale also spoke to QE Holdings Inc.’s application to build at 9470, 9482 and 9492 - 134 Street and 13428 - 95 Avenue a six-storey apartment building containing approximately 152 dwellings. He spoke to all 11 items on Monday’s public hearing agenda.
“Please allow me to be really annoyed,” he said of this project. “Another development in the city centre concrete jungle. There are very little remaining trees left. This developer would destroy all 90 mature trees, decimate the last remaining stand to replace them with 38 tiny twigs.”
Council approved third reading on this one.
But council referred back to city staff Bucci Fleetwood Holdings Ltd.’s application, which had been up for third reading consideration on Monday, to build at 16065 and 16099 (16111) Fraser Highway two high-rise mixed-use buildings and a mid-rise residential building as part of a multi-phased development, “and the creation of a lot for park purposes.” This last application features three towers at 42, 37 and 15 storeys, containing 1,130 apartments and townhouse-style units.
“This again is a very ambitious project that may be overwhelming infrastructure,” Stutt said. “I realize that the developer’s been quite cooperative with the community association and the community at large and it seems to me, what I’ve heard from both sides, is it’s not that far away from satisfying both needs and I think perhaps that it be given a chance to proceed.”
Elford noted there will be “a lot of towers along this route in the future, and this is the beginning and it’s actually convenient because it’s designed to actually be completed when the SkyTrain is completed. I think it’s the first in the queue.”
Nagra said he “fully” supports the project, calling it “a good addition to Fleetwood” in light of the SkyTrain extension into Langley.
“We need that ridership once the trains are up and running,” Nagra said. “We need people in those trains; this is the only way TransLink will survive.
Annis called it a “great” project but expressed concern about the proximity of large towers to single family residences. “I understand the need for the towers but we also need to respect the neighbourhood as well.”
She asked city staff to work with the developer to provide “some sort of a buffer.”
Locke said she thinks this developer has worked “really well” with the neighbourhood, adding, “I have to agree with councillor Stutt that they are very close.
“I still believe though that the neighbourhood wants more consultation and because this is the very first one in this plan I don’t think it’s an effort to stall it by years or anything like that,” Locke said, “it’s just a process for staff to work with the developer to make sure that the consultation process with the neighbourhood is effective and the voice of the neighbourhood is felt like it’s heard so I would support sending it back to staff, even in the short term.”
During the public hearing, speakers expressed concern about the need for affordable rental units as opposed to strata units for sale, that the buildings are “too tall,” that the project would be more appropriate for a city centre as opposed to a town centre, about increased traffic volume, and lack of schools in the area.
Agent Troy Abromaitis, of Bucci Investment Corporation, told council the developer has worked “transparently” with the City of Surrey.
Anita Huberman, CEO of the Surrey Board of Trade, encouraged council to approve the project, which she said would “revitalize” and “really emblazon a thriving community in the Fleetwood area.”
“This is a destination economic asset for the city of Surrey,” she said, “where we can live, work, play in an economic focused development.”
“We need to be able to build out all of Surrey,” Huberman told council, “not only the downtown core. This project will add to Surrey’s workforce housing inventory.”