Residents of a Panorama neighbourhood say the City of Surrey has broken its own rules in contracting a tow company to operate on the old city hall site, and the resulting noise is having a detrimental effect on their lives.
Gail Sczerkowsky said she and her neighbours are subjected to car alarms, backup sirens, excessive idling, the sound of chains being dragged and pipes dropped, workers yelling at each other and more at all hours of the day, including overnight.
“It’s totally in violation (of the city’s noise bylaw), 100 per cent,” said Sczerkowsky, who moved to the area with her family four years ago for needed peace and quiet.
“This is a huge, huge problem and it’s causing extreme grief to some people.”
The tow company has been operating at the site – near King George Boulevard and Highway 10 – since late-March. City signage notes the site is the subject of a temporary-use permit application, to allow vehicle storage for up to three years.
Thursday, bylaws manager Jas Rehal and Clover Towing owner Kit Moller acknowledged the residents’ concerns and assured the situation is a much more temporary one than the sign suggests.
“I’m working very hard to have this thing moved out of there,” Rehal said. “We’re taking steps (to address the complaints), everything we can do.”
Rehal said a temporary-use permit is needed because existing zoning does not permit a tow yard on the site. It was located there due to an unexpected need to change the city’s tow provider on short notice, and a desire to keep the operation reasonably accessible to the public.
He hopes to have the operation relocated before the application process reaches the hearing stage.
Moller said changes were made as soon as residents’ concerns were known – one month after operations commenced – and included reducing the lot’s hours to 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., and having drivers disconnect the batteries of vehicles being towed in so car alarms were not being inadvertently activated.
Any vehicles picked up by Clover Towing after 8 p.m. are being taken to the company’s Langley lot, Moller said.
“We came up with what I thought was a solution,” he said.
He noted he was not aware of excessive-idling concerns, and said he will address that with his drivers.
While Sczerkowsky is grateful for the steps taken, she said it isn’t enough – especially since existing zoning does not allow the business – and noise concerns continue.
“This is not being used as what it legally states,” she said. “This is a viable, commercial, daily, seven-days-a-week business.”
Sczerkowsky – whose property is separated from the lot by a small greenbelt and hydro right-of-way – was spurred to lodge her complaint in March out of concern the all-hours noise would interfere with her son’s recovery. He had only recently been released from hospital after suffering traumatic injuries, and sound rest was important.
She said she’s now representing more than 50 residents and still can’t enjoy her backyard. She noted she has had to cancel hosting a friend’s wedding next month.
At a public information meeting hosted by the city Thursday evening – after Peace Arch News’ press deadline – Sczerkowsky planned to ask if environmental studies were done before the operation was allowed, and if residents should expect similar operations to be allowed on the site after the tow company relocates.
“Who says they can’t cram something else down our throats like this?” she said.