Properties on the north side of 24 Avenue in the Orchard Grove area were subject of an apartment and townhouse project that was stalled at third reading before Surrey council.

Properties on the north side of 24 Avenue in the Orchard Grove area were subject of an apartment and townhouse project that was stalled at third reading before Surrey council.

Surrey grants reprieve for Orchard Grove area

School and traffic concerns were cited by residents and council members over apartment and townhouse proposal

The Orchard Grove neighbourhood of South Surrey may retain its current character – and tree canopy – for now, at least.

A proposal for a combined apartment building and townhouse development in the 16600-block of 24th Ave. was stalled at third reading of the rezoning application by Surrey council Monday night, after a public hearing in which five residents voiced opposition to the plan.

The development – which  proposed a six-storey building of 117 units (including two levels of underground parking) and 79 houses at 16613, 16637 and 16667 24 Ave. – was referred back to staff for revisions and with a direction that an apartment building would not be appropriate for the property.

Area resident Peter Tilbury – who was one of those who spoke against the plan – told Peace Arch News in an email that the single family lots currently have 98 mature cedars and Douglas firs on them.

“The developer plans to remove 78 of these,” he said.

“That’s a 79 per cent reduction in the tree canopy – Orchard Grove would be no more.”

Tilbury also noted that – given the parking provisions for the development – it could introduce some 300 more cars to local roads.

Jackie Christofferson, president of the Country Woods Residents Association – which represents some Orchard Grove residents – said she felt council members did listen and heed speakers’ objections.

“It seems positive – I was led to believe that very little would happen as it had already reached third reading,” she said, adding that she expects another version of the proposal will eventually come back to council.

“We suggested either single-family or townhouse development in that area, as it would be in keeping with the intent of the (Neighbourhood Concept Plan) and the entire nature of the area.”

Christofferson was also among those who raised the issue of the impact of the development on area schools.

From city estimates, it would bring 35 new elementary school students to the area.

“Pacific Heights Elementary is supposed to have 250 students and they’ve got 307 – they’re already over-capacity,” Christofferson said. “If you added another 35 they’d have to build another two portables. It would be another Sunnyside Elementary situation.”

Christofferson said that while Couns. Bruce Hayne, Barbara Steele and Tom Gill all recommended referring the proposal back to staff to address community concerns, strongest opposition came from Couns. Vera LeFranc, Judy Villeneuve and Dave Woods, who expressed concern about the impact on traffic and on schools.

“Coun. LeFranc said it didn’t make sense to have that density in this area,” she said. “She noted it wasn’t in a transit corridor.

“And Coun. Villeneuve said it was too dense, from both a people and architectural perspective and that she has ongoing concerns about traffic on 24 Avenue.”