EDITORIAL: Unsightly precedent

The proprietors of Riverside, their former customers and the public at large deserve better.

A 50-year-old landmark South Surrey business, the Riverside Golf Centre on picturesque property overlooking Nicomekl River and Mud Bay, will cease to exist this weekend for what is expected to be the final chapter of an extended story, following civic expropriation of its property.

The City of Surrey, through its solicitors, maintains the owners have been paid fair market value for the lands – some $3.25 million, as determined by an independent appraiser.

The city, again through its solicitors, has said that even though the expropriation was done in June, it has allowed the owners, at their request, to remain on site until Jan. 31.

The city – and yes, through its solicitors again – has upheld the purpose stated in the original expropriation notice, that the land is required “for highway and for open land park for biodiversity conservation, passive recreation and wildlife and scenery-viewing purposes.”

And therein must lie the crux of the matter, at least as far as public opinion is concerned.

Nowhere have any of Surrey’s civic leaders been forthright enough to put forward publicly the rationale for a move that has impacted the freedom of choice to pursue a livelihood in their community. The owners have – so far as can be determined – done nothing wrong in the half century they have been there, and the city action suggests a precedent that could be troubling, even alarming, for other property owners.

In every public instance in this expropriation, Surrey’s leaders have hid behind the legalese of representatives, claiming it is “before the courts.”

This is a facile explanation that does them no credit. They should be aware that, no matter where legal proceedings stand, or how long it takes such wheels to turn, this does not necessarily preclude all comment. It merely dictates that any comment made is prudent.

At some point in this process, residents should have been presented with some idea of what the city’s plans are and where they fit into an overall vision. There may be sound specific arguments for such an expropriation, but our elected representatives have done little to advance them.

Once again, residents looking for vision and accountability in their leaders have found them wanting. In the aftermath of the expropriation, we are left, again, with the bitter taste of abitrariness and lack of transparency.

The proprietors of Riverside, their former customers and the public at large deserve better.