As supporters and opponents packed a crowded council chamber, Surrey Council voted 8-1 to move forward with the gaming application for a proposed casino and entertainment complex in South Surrey.
It was the last step before the public would be allowed to share their thoughts on the project with council directly, which will come in the form of a public hearing to be held on Jan. 14 in the New Year.
For opponent Terry McNiece, president of the South Surrey Ratepayers Association, council's decision to move forward with the application to a public hearing was not a surprise.
"It was expected," he said of the decision. "Now we (opponents) just have to meet as a committee and review the information provided by staff."
McNiece said the next step is planning on what to say during the public hearing.
Gateway Casinos & Entertainment Limited, proponents of the project, said they were happy with council's decision.
"We were happy to hear the city say how important it was for everybody's opinion to be heard and to move forward to this public information meeting," said Tanya Gabara, community liaison for Gateway.
As for the roughly 200 or so people that came out to city hall wearing t-shirts showing support for Gateway, Gabara said they were comprised of supporters, employees and friends of Gateway.
"The level of support that came out was amazing," she said, explaining that Gateway had chartered buses for supporters wanting to attend. "We had several hundred people coming out so we felt this would be a good way to ensure that everybody who wanted to come got there and was able to find space."
Gabara said Gateway would continue with their public engagement process up until the Jan. 14 meeting.
Finally, for Coun. Marvin Hunt, the lone councilor who voted against the application, he's ready to hear from the public about the proposed project, despite voting against the motion to move forward with the gaming application.
When asked why he voted the way he did, Hunt said it wasn't because he was opposed to allowing the public to have their input, but that he was opposed to the casino itself.
"The generality is that you always vote for the public hearing but the reason I voted against it is simply that I am continuing a voting pattern I have in that I think there is enough gaming around for everyone," he said. "By the same token, I wouldn't be reading a lot into the other council members voting for that because it was a vote to hear from the public and that was a positive thing."