SOUTH SURREY — Some say the City of Surrey shouldn't densify the "Grandview Heights 4" neighbourhood, due to lack of transit service and the area's rich environmental lands.
The city is currently working on a Neighbourhood Concept Plan (NCP) for the area.
It is one of five neighbourhoods within Grandview Heights and is bound by the Agricultural Land Reserve.
In July, 2005, a group of land owners in the area petitioned the city to begin the planning process.
The petition represented 63 per cent of the owners of the properties in the area and 66 per cent of the land area.
The area is designated "Suburban" in the city's Official Community Plan. The current zoning in the area is primarily A-1 (General Agriculture), A-2 (Intensive Agriculture) and RA (One Acre Residential), with a few parcels zoned CD (Comprehensive Development).
A range of housing types is proposed in the NCP, including single detached homes, duplexes, townhouses, row houses and fourto six-storey apartment buildings.
A corporate report from January estimated the area's build-out would accommodate apopulation of between 8,389 and 11,887.
Grant Rice, who ran under the Surrey Civic Coalition banner in the last municipal election, says the city shouldn't be densifying this area because it currently has minimal transit service.
"The whole idea of planning density on frequent transit networks and around SkyTrains and transit hubs, that makes perfect sense to me. But we seem to be building further and further in areas that will be car dependent for years and years to come," Rice said.
He pointed to East Clayton.
"People who moved in there basically needed a car because of the density that they put in there. It's become a bit of a nightmare for people who are trying to find parking," Rice said. "There's quite a high-density plan for a lot of the neighbourhoods in that NCP, so there is that problem of too many cars and not enough parking."
Deb Jack, president and co-founder of Surrey Environmental Partners, echoed Rice's transit concerns, but emphasized the environmental landscape of the neighbourhood needs to be properly protected.
"This is an incredibly lush, green area. This is one of the most important, if not the most important, biologically diverse areas in the city," Jack said, adding that this NCP is like a tipping point.
"If we don't do this one right, I don't think we're going to be able to do other areas very well."
Jack went on to say she is happy to see the city implementing a "green levy" in the NCP, which will charge developers a fee that will be used to acquire natural areas for wildlife.
While the city has long charged developers for things like building sewer systems, roads and parks for public use, the green levy for wildlife areas is quite new.
Don Luymes, Surrey's manager of community planning, said a lot of infrastructure has to be built in the neighbourhood to allow for development.
"The main thing is that sewer lines have to be extended to this area. Right now this area is just on septic," he said, adding that it will cost a fair bit of money to bring the lines in.
"If you have enough money, anything is possible. But it's not insignificant. (Grandview Heights 4) is more expensive than a typical neighbourhood concept plan... Whether or not developers are able to afford that, that's for them to decide," Luymes said.
Coun. Barinder Rasode, who works with the city's community associations on behalf of council, said she's heard concerns from residents regarding this NCP.
"One of the issues brought to us has been the issue of making sure that we're doing higher density developments in areas that are already designated for development, and not going into areas, yet, where it may seem a bit premature," Rasode said. "One of the comments we hear is that this NCP is a little bit premature."
She has also heard the environmental concerns.
"It's certainly an area that is designated to hold a lot of environmental value."
The NCP is expected to go before council at its next meeting on Monday, Oct. 7.
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