LETTERS: Residents call for town-hall style meeting on Town Centre plan


Re: Article on proposed Semiahmoo Town Centre Plan, Nov. 1

Your reporter did an excellent job in describing the proposed Plan, but only heard from one of the many residents who have concerns about it. Some of these residents have come to us, their long-standing local community association, for assistance in making their voices heard in opposing elements of the plan. So today, we, the Semiahmoo Residents Association (SRA), have sent a letter to the city planning department, copied to mayor and council that requests the following:

· A town-hall style meeting where residents can debate the pros and cons of the proposals with staff, and learn what others think.

· More time before the plan goes to council (it could be as early as December), in order to allow the SRA to hear from residents and evaluate their concerns about the policies in the plan, and discuss these with staff on their behalf. Our experiences have shown that there is more power in a group approach than an individual one.

· More information on the published city surveys and their validity, and whether the opinions of affected residents have been given sufficient weight.

· An extension to the closing date of the city’s latest on-line survey beyond Nov. 5, to allow residents to respond who are just learning about the proposed plan.

The concerns we have heard so far include whether the plan contains enough controls and guidelines to create a truly attractive, livable, and pedestrian-friendly town centre. Redevelopment of the mall area presents an opportunity to design something special, to be proud of.

But the Plan (TCP) seems to allow, at a maximum, around 30 towers, each 12-24-storeys high on the ten blocks created by extending adjoining roads across the mall site, and also along 152 Street south of 18 Avenue. Should there not be a comprehensive plan before redevelopment like this starts, full of urban design criteria, to find the best locations for these very tall buildings, limits the number of them, and which minimizes adverse effects on other buildings and on nearby residences?

Many of us may be thinking that this redevelopment is 10-15 years down the road, and so will not affect us. Maybe that is true for the indoor mall itself, but we were surprised to learn at the Open House that, as briefly mentioned in the PAN article, a rezoning application has already been submitted for phase 1 redevelopment of the Mall area. We were told it comprises three towers and a small park along the east side of Martin Drive between 152 Street and Southmere Crescent West.

The towers are apparently proposed to be 24-, 20-, and 12-storeys high, with ground floor commercial. While we do not yet know their exact locations, it appears that two of the towers would probably face across Martin Drive onto windows along the length of several three- to four-storey residential buildings. While these heights comply with the proposed maximum heights in the proposed TCP, as noted in the PAN article, this may bring into question for concerned residents, why such heights are being proposed in the TCP for such transitional, buffer areas.

These building height regulations in the TCP appear to have been arbitrarily set, without the benefit of urban design studies that would assess the effects of building mass, overshadowing, and overlooking on the adjoining neighbourhood.

Although there will be a public consultation process later about this proposed rezoning, anyone wishing to oppose these building heights is advised to also voice their opinions to the City on the height limits in the TCP, first. We, the SRA, can help with this or residents can use the City’s online survey immediately (google Semiahmoo Town Centre Plan/City of Surrey and go to “take the survey”

As a community association, we would be happy to work with the city and with other local organizations to protect and enhance our quality of life. Anyone wishing to contact us for more information or become a member of SRA is invited to e-mail us at semi.res.assoc@gmail.com

Rosaleen MacFadden-Cann, President, SRA

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