If there were any doubt that summer is at an end on the Semiahmoo Peninsula, it’s been dispelled by two things: the return of children to and elementary and secondary schools, and the resumption of city council meetings.
The latter seem to be back with a vengeance, in a spate of public hearings on projects that would significantly change the landscape of South Surrey and White Rock.
In the space of a single week, residents in South Surrey were asked to express their opinions on a 145-unit single family home development proposed for the Hazelmere Valley (for which Surrey council subsequently passed third reading, the major hurdle before final adoption), while in White Rock, city residents were invited to speak up on no less than three contentious projects; a five-level parkade near the waterfront, and 14-storey and 12-storey mixed-use developments for Lower Johnston Road.
Given current development agendas for the Peninsula, these won’t be the last hearings of their kind, by a long chalk.
It’s a time for residents to exercise their rights, to be aware of proposals that would likely impact their lives and to practise diligence in checking the meeting notices mailed to them or published in their local papers.
While the cities provide an opportunity for the public to speak, the fact is it isn’t always easy to manage.
When civic governments schedule public hearings on crucial developments at five in the afternoon, average families who are balancing the daily commute, after-school activities and meal schedules may have a struggle to make sure a member is there in time to register for the speakers’ list. That’s even a bit early for retirees and seniors who – we like to think – have all the time in the world to attend, but are in reality juggling schedules and obligations almost as complex as younger residents.
Nonetheless with more than two hours spent on the hearing for the Hazelmere project, three hours on the parkade and a total of 6½ hours of public feedback on the Johnston Road developments, it can’t be argued that the two cities aren’t giving residents an opportunity to exercise their voices.
Whether council members are listening – particularly at the tail end of such marathon meetings – is another question entirely.