Letter-writer Brian Coote says concerns for a proposed truck park in South Surrey extends beyond environmentalists.

LETTERS: Due process lost in Hazelmere

Editor:

Re. Langley leaders doubt truck park’s a go, Nov. 11.

Editor:

Re. Langley leaders doubt truck park’s a go, Nov. 11.

As someone who has committed dozens of hours to understand the truck-park application with the City of Surrey, I am pleased to see the continued attention of residents and the balanced reporting by Peace Arch News.

Other media are unfortunately dumbing this issue down to it being about disgruntled “environmentalists”. The reality is that hundreds of residents are fighting for continued access to drinking water that is free of carcinogens, metals and other poisons; a civic process that is carried out with integrity; and to gain a better understanding of what the applicant is truly proposing for these 77 acres of A-1 zoned agricultural land.

The people opposed to this application – that I’ve met so far – are a diverse group, not only environmentalists. Since when does a concern for one’s water quality make one an environmentalist? Since when does standing up to city council and questioning why they voted unanimously to fast-track this application in advance of the Local Area Planning process turn this into an over-simplified ‘truckers vs. environmentalists’ debate? This portrayal may only serve to pit two groups of citizens against each other, when in reality, both share the same values surrounding access to safe drinking water and having a council that respects their own guiding documents, including Surrey’s Sustainability Charter.

While some of the 1,000-plus people who have commented are undoubtedly environmentalists, the vast majority are ‘just’ concerned citizens who are worried that their elected leaders have gotten themselves into a position of considering a very risky application.

We might be excused for believing Coun. Tom Gill to be the spokesperson for GG Metro Holdings, given that he is giving interviews and speaking about their commitment “to meeting environmental safety standards.” Is this how our civic process is supposed to work? The optics are highly questionable. I thought it was up to the city’s world-class staff to determine the merits of an application before making their recommendation to council.

Does Gill know something the rest of us do not?

While the science behind the city’s own environmental studies absolutely supports the case for stopping this application in its tracks, there is a broader range of risks that are equally sound arguments against this application ever making it to council for a vote. Will even one council member have the courage to make a motion to close the door on this application before it moves to a first reading?

The proper process and outcome is to put these 77 acres of land back into the 600-acre Special Study Area, and consider their best use only upon completion of the Local Area Plan, as should have been done in the first place.

Brian Coote, Langley

• • •

Surrey Coun. Tom Gill is speaking out in favour of a massive 77-acre truck park and commercial development near the Little Campbell River, one of B.C.’s 12 endangered rivers.

Surrey could expropriate the 77-acre agricultural site to create Hazelmere Nature Conservancy.

It would be right across the street from an internationally recognized environmental stewardship.

Please tell Gill that Surrey “City of Parks” means for trees, not trucks.

Bob McBlain, Surrey

• • •

I am one of the many South Surrey, South Langley and Hazelmere taxpayers who are lobbying to reverse the motion for the File No 915-0227-00 to be considered outside of the future Local Area Plan.

This is an application to rezone 77 acres of agricultural land in a sensitive ecological area of the Campbell Valley to industrial, to allow for a very large truck park and large-scale industrial area.

It should be noted this land is outside of the Metro Vancouver growth boundary, and it has never been suggested it was needed or appropriate for industrial use. It was fast-tracked ahead of any such studies and, it seems, without reference to the extensive environmental study done last spring.

As taxpayers, we have expectations that a consistent process will be followed, but it seems in this case there are contradictions.

For instance, Mayor Linda Hepner’s comments to PAN (Ecological area eyed for development, Sept. 16): “There are some concerns about areas in there that you would never touch, and I expect that will be what happens within the Local Area Plan analysis.”

Sounded like due process would be followed, but unfortunately just 48 hours previously the mayor voted to have it considered outside of the Local Area Plan.

There is a large and growing contingent of groups and individuals who are angry that any planning applications in this area will only be decided after the Local Area Plan analysis is completed and not before.

It seems council has taken on the role of the planning department – deciding on what type developments should go where, and no longer even asking for recommendations before making far-reaching decisions.

Because of fast-tracking, Metro didn’t look at whether it is the best use of the land or, most importantly, whether 16 Avenue could cope with 1,300 extra trucks a day. The road is dangerous as it is, and clearly not wide enough.

This is what happens when applications are forwarded outside of the normal process – unsuitable applications get through the back door and take hold.

Do we really want a developer deciding where he wants to build a truck park based on profitability? Shouldn’t this be decided on a much higher level than a few councillors? Shouldn’t this involve using all the facts, reports and research so that a truck park goes in the right place, meets the needs of the local truckers, has the infrastructure to support it, and is not an environmental disaster waiting to happen.

Maybe some councillors have become far too involved in the front-end decision making of this application, when they do not have the time or expertise. It is time for mayor and council to take their wannabe-planners’ hats off and start doing the job they were elected to do – govern Surrey in a wise and sustainable manner – and leave the land-use planning to the qualified individuals in the planning department.

Sarah Rush, Surrey

 

 

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