COLUMN: Mistakes can’t be repeated

Surrey must learn from errors in Campbell Heights development

Surrey’s environmental advisory committee has deep reservations about the latest Neighbourhood Concept Plan for Grandview Heights.

The committee’s concerns are valid and are worth paying attention to.

The NCP (known as Grandview Heights 4 NCP) covers the area north of 20 Avenue, east of 176 Street, as far east as 184 Street and north to 32 Avenue. It abuts on the Agricultural Land Reserve, and a short distance to the east is the Campbell Heights industrial area. The NCP covers 487 acres.

At present, this area is among the most rural in South Surrey, outside the ALR. There are virtually no urban developments within it.  Most properties are large, and there is extensive forest cover. Wildlife is abundant, including deer, coyotes and many other species.

Surrey is planning NCPs in a number of areas where urban development has crept closer over the past decade.

In the case of Grandview Heights 4, there is intensive urban to the west along 24 Avenue, where both commercial and residential development has blossomed.

The commercial area is becoming one of the hubs of commerce in South Surrey, particularly near the 24 Avenue and 160 Street intersection.

The presence of Campbell Heights to the east may be one of the reasons this area is even being considered for urban development at present. The development timetable for Campbell Heights was advanced, largely through the initiative of past councils, and services were extended to the area at great expense.

While the jobs provided are a good addition to Surrey’s economic base, the lack of transit, minimal truck-access routes and environmental challenges created during the initial construction stages are all serious problems.

It was the concerns about the environment (which include excessive tree cutting, the effect on creeks, loss of wildlife habitat and other permanent changes to the area) which were raised during and after the initial development of Campbell Heights that prompted the present council to take a much more proactive stance on environmental considerations during development – a step forward that is welcomed by most Surrey residents.

One of those steps was preparation of an ecosystem management study which provides an overarching view of how development in one area fits within the big picture.

The EAC is raising concerns about Grandview Heights 4. It feels that there has been scant attention paid to the environment during preparation of the NCP, and fears there will be massive tree loss, a destruction of wildlife habitat and a great deal of permanent change to the ecosystem.

The EAC feels that the NCP, as is stands today, is a direct contradiction of the ecosystem-management study which council has approved.

The EAC sought to discuss its concerns with council, passing a motion to that effect at its May 25 meeting. Council has turned down the request, stating that the committee should meet with staff.

Coun. Bob Bose, a longtime environmental advocate, feels that the EAC is becoming discouraged.

“There’s an overwhelming frustration that development always trumps important environmental issues,” Bose said.

Surrey residents who have concerns about the way rural areas of the city are changing need to pay full attention to how council proceeds on this issue.

Generally speaking, there has been a greater concern for the environment by the city in recent years.

Lessons were learned from the mistakes made at Campbell Heights.

It is very important that they not be repeated in Grandview Heights 4, just to the west. What is now a place of real beauty and an important part of Surrey`s environment needs to remain that way when it becomes more urbanized, as will happen eventually.

Frank Bucholtz writes Fridays for the Peace Arch News. He is the editor of the Langley Times.

 

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