SURREY (NEWS 1130) – As Surrey’s council prepares to vote on a controversial road through Hawthorne Park, the head of the opposition campaign is worried the city is exploiting a provincial law to push the project through.
An engineering report recommends council approve the project that would divide the southern half of the park by expanding 105 Avenue to create a new through-road.
Opposition leader Steven Pettigrew says he’s disappointed the report does not lay out several recommended courses of action, and worries the road would destroy a large section of green space, but he’s also concerned about how council used the Alternate Approval Process (AAP) to justify the changes.
AAP is a provincial law that’s used as an alternative to a referendum, where the city notifies the public about proposed changes and within 30 days, citizens must actively say whether they want a referendum on the issue. Unless more than 10 per cent of voters want a referendum, the project can go forward without one.
“The other municipalities and the other mayors, I’m sure they’re watching this to see what Surrey can get away with,” Pettigrew said. “And if Surrey can get away with doing this to the citizens, then that gives the other mayors and other city councils that much more encouragement to start using this process against their citizens.”
In Surrey’s case, the AAP process only received 3.7 per cent support for a referendum, so according to the law the approval of the electors was obtained.
The vote was held between early August and late September, a time Pettigrew argues when many people are away on summer vacations. The city argues the vote was held then to meet the deadlines for the relocation of water mains and sewer lines ahead of the Surrey-Newton Guildford Light Rail Transit plan.
Councillor Mike Starchuk previously said around 300 mail-outs were sent to local area residents informing them of the project.
The engineering report says the project would improve east-west traffic, plan for future growth and transit projects and actually improves access to the park. The city argues improvements will be made to amenities, and plans also include increased natural habitats and trees.
City council will vote on Monday whether to approve the project.
Regardless of the outcome, Pettigrew says he wants to complain about the AAP to the province to change the law. “Not all usages of the AAP is bad. There’s been many examples when it’s been a good thing. It has some good purposes, but not in the removal of parks from protection,” he said. “The biggest loss is the loss of democracy.”
Earlier this year city councillors voted to lift the park’s 30-year-old protection bylaw to allow for the construction.
Opponents of the project plan to attend Monday’s council meeting.