SURREY (NEWS 1130) – Letting developers build along Surrey’s proposed SkyTrain route without a new neighbourhood plan could spell disaster for people living in the area and a nightmare for city planners, according to one community group.
At their Monday meeting, Surrey councillors voted 5-4 to reject a motion that would have paused development along the stretch of the Fraser Highway for 10 months as the city worked out a new land-use plan.
Cloverdale Community Association President Mike Bola says he was disappointed and sees it as a broken election promise to have Smart Cities development.
“When you have development that occurs at a free-for-all and there’s no control over how many houses, or units in a townhouse, condo or tower building, it’s very hard to do any pre-planning for schools, road infrastructure and regular public amenities,” he said.
Although he is not opposed to development, Bola said the city will need to plan for likely additional traffic on residential roads surrounding the SkyTrain route, particularly around stations, and the additional pressure that could place on local businesses.
Mayor Doug McCallum, who voted against the motion to pause, doesn’t think development along the stretch of highway will be a problem.
“We’re going to have density along our transit corridors,” McCallum said, adding he isn’t concerned about so-called renovictions or demovictions. “It won’t happen along the Fraser Highway.”
As developers look at opportunities to build on vacant and occupied lots, some older buildings could be demolished and residents displaced.
“The fact that this is an open ended opportunity for developers who have been sitting on or looking to buy a property along Fraser Highway, they could potentially demolish an existing build and say okay I want to take advantage of this,” Bola said. “There’s nothing wrong with that, but there should be some kind of template or control as to where the minimums and maximums will be at. City staff need to know where to start.”
Despite its highway moniker, Bola said Fraser Highway is very much a part of the city as it passes directly through residential and commercial areas.
He said his group will wait to see which applications come forward, under the assumption SkyTrain will become a reality along the route, and hopes developers will be proactive and reach out to community associations.