Surrey council has moved forward a proposal to build a six-storey transitional housing facility and emergency shelter next to Green Timbers Urban Forest.
The City of Surrey submitted an application on behalf of BC Housing on June 21, 2018 to construct a six-storey transitional housing facility and emergency centre at 14150 Green Timbers Way.
City council voted Monday (Oct. 1) to give its approval for staff to draft a development permit, and also approved the terms of a development variance permit, which will now go to public notification.
Comments will be now be gathered, and that correspondence will be brought back for council’s consideration on Nov. 19.
The Oct. 1 agenda document states that the Green Timbers Way housing facility will consist of several components: a 30-bed emergency shelter that will provide immediate, temporary housing and care for individuals with mental health and substance abuse challenges; a 100-bed transitional housing facility for individuals who will be transitioned to suitable, permanent housing; and support services and spaces including laundry, dining, lounge, recreation, outdoor amenity space, counselling, health services, and food services.
BC Housing has selected RainCity Housing and Support Society to act as the facility operator.
In 2015, a memorandum of understanding between the city and BC Housing was brought to council “to secure a partnership to lead to the delivery of a new purpose-built low barrier shelter and transitional housing facility in the Surrey City Centre area.” According to the agenda, the memorandum was signed on Nov. 16 and 19, 2015.
Council previously gave its blessing to rezone the property. At the April 18, 2016 council meeting, there was a recommendation to rezone two city-owned properties at 9900-140th Street and 14150 Green Timbers Way. The properties received third reading for the rezoning in early May, 2016.
The city says the property is not part of the dedicated Green Timbers Urban Forest, through either the 1987 or 1996 referendums.
When council gave its approval to rezone the property, Councillor Judy Villeneuve said “Surrey is behind on social infrastructure,” noting the city had been trying to get a new shelter off the ground for five to eight years prior to that.
“We need the opportunity and lands positioned well, close to services, in order to meet the needs of some of our most vulnerable citizens in the city,” Villeneuve said at the time. “So that’s why I’m supporting the rezoning with the understanding that it is not any part of the (designated) forested area and that the arborist will do a more thorough check so that any kind of development we do on this site is in line with preserving every heritage tree we can.”
Don Schuetze, president of Green Timbers Heritage Society, was met with applause in council chambers in 2016 when he told Surrey council the forest should instead be declared part of Green Timbers Forest. He did so a week before council gave third reading to the rezoning application.
“It’s difficult to argue against care facilities, transitional housing and the other uses that are being mentioned here,” Schuetze told council at the time. “They’re necessary causes, and if it was any other space I’d be embarrassed to even question it. But Green Timbers is special, it’s unique, and it is threatened.”
-With a file from Tom Zytaruk