COLUMN: ‘Smart growth’ lacking in Surrey

Surrey council’s approval of infrastructure projects in the Tynehead area shows the folly of opening up development in many areas simultaneously.

The Anniedale-Tynehead Neighbourhood Concept Plan was approved seven years ago, proposing future urbanization of an area of almost 1,000 acres, stretching from 168 Street almost to 192 Street, south of 96 Avenue and as far south in some places as 88 Avenue. It is proposed as the future home for about 20,000 people.

Since that time, nothing has happened. Urban services are not in place, and many other areas of Surrey are under rapid development.

The larger parcels of land in the area have been sold and resold by speculators. Tenants with no regard for the neighbourhood or the environment have moved in and out of many properties. Those who have lived there for years have dealt with deteriorating neighbourhoods, much higher property taxes and regular visits from realtors, who see little other than dollar signs.

Council approved Beech Westgard Developments’ proposal to build a pump station and detention pond, and subdivide land at 92 Avenue and 172 Street to allow the work to proceed.

Surrey first proposed urbanizing the area in 2003, and a general land-use plan was approved by council in 2005, near the end of Mayor Doug McCallum’s first stint in office. Since that time, the NCP was developed. Meanwhile, rampant growth in other areas of Surrey such as Grandview, Rosemary Heights, Sullivan, East Clayton and other infill development has put incredible stress on city infrastructure.

There are not enough schools, health facilities are over-utilized, many residents cannot get a family physician, roads are more congested, transit has only been expanded incrementally, there is no additional rapid transit and social services are stretched to the limit. Not enough police officers have been hired, serious crime gets more challenging each year and opioid use has grown dramatically.

Meanwhile, the cost of housing has also jumped dramatically. Many people cannot afford even the most basic home, and rents have risen steadily. More and more young people are moving as far away as Abbotsford and Chilliwack because it is the only place in the Lower Mainland where they can afford a home.

The land uses proposed for Anniedale-Tynehead do not address this pricing problem. Significant areas are being proposed for detached homes, which less than 10 per cent of the working population can afford. Some multi-family housing is proposed, but there is almost no transit in the area now. How a younger family will be able to afford a townhouse, two vehicles and child care isn’t addressed.

There is nothing wrong with infrastructure projects to support future development going ahead. However, the NCP needs a serious update. Environmental protection must be looked at more carefully, and land uses which will actually provide housing for people who need it must be given higher priority.

Eight of the nine Surrey council members need to recall the “smart growth” principles they campaigned on and promised to abide by in the last election.

Opening up another area for development when infrastructure lags so far behind can hardly be considered “smart growth.”

Frank Bucholtz writes Wednesdays for Peace Arch News, as well as at frankbucholtz.blogspot.ca

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