Two years ago, our neighbourhood received a notice of a public hearing regarding the new South Surrey Operations Centre to be built on the site of the water reservoir at 24 Avenue and 166 Street.
We met on 23 Avenue where a row of new, very expensive homes had just been built, high density, on cleared land. The site of the new work place was to be across the road from them.
It was a beautiful country road, magnificently treed, typical of what is disappearing so fast in Grandview Heights. Everyone was extremely upset, wanting them to go away and build somewhere else.
Robert Costanzo, Surrey’s head engineer at that time (now general manager of corporate services), had a very angry crowd to deal with, including myself. We could see no way that a project of this proportion could possibly fit into our district.
The plans were disastrous. Five acres had to be clearcut, all street trees removed for widening. One man was almost in tears because his hawk had eggs and the tree where she nested would come down.
Costanzo, bless his heart, actually listened to our angry outpouring. He had two ‘walk-abouts’ with me, plus parks and engineering staff. He marked out a wide buffer of trees, and ordered the country road to be left as a collector road to spare them.
He then tore up the original ‘clearcut’ plans. He eliminated the oversized parking lot, leaving that area as a beautiful, natural forest that will remain.
He told me weeks later that on a visit to the site one day, people came up to him asking what was to become of their owls. He realized then the importance of preserving habitat for the animals.
A few days ago, I visited the site and was amazed at the beautiful work the staff had done. The unsightly parts of the works yard were well-hidden. A winding walkway under the conifers provides a cool, peaceful place for those who live there. Even the colour of the bricks blended in with the trees.
I would never have believed a work site of this magnitude could fit into the neighbourhood. This is, to me, is a wonderful example of the kind of development that should be happening throughout Surrey, even with difficult projects such as this. It just needs someone who cares.
Costanzo and his team of engineers and parks people cared. Their close collaboration and dedication to detail will be much appreciated over the years.
Thank you to everyone who participated.
Sybil Rowe, Surrey