With just a few days left before Surrey council hears from the public regarding the proposed South Surrey casino, proponents and opponents are looking forward to finally making their case directly to the city's decision-makers.
At Gateway Casinos & Entertainment Limited, the group behind the proposal, community liaison Tanya Gabara said they were looking forward to the public hearing.
"We're really excited for Monday because we know they (council) are excited to hear people get up and speak about the project and we are also very interested to hear from the public," said Gabara. "It's been quite the process so far and we've really enjoyed being out and in the community...and we're very optimistic council is going to make the best decision for the city based on the information provided."
As for supporters, Gabara indicated that staff and supporters from Gateway's other casinos would be present at the event, though whether or not they will be bused in as they were during a Dec. 10 council meeting remains to be seen.
"We do have a lot of staff that want to attend and as far as commuting them we haven't determined that yet," said Gabara. "In the end it's up to the employee to determine how they get there but we do have a lot of employees that will be coming out to show their support Monday."
On the opposition side, Terry McNiece, president of the South Surrey Ratepayer's association and opponent to the proposed casino said they were organizing their speakers for the hearing.
"We've also got quite a few more petitions signed by residents in the community and are currently working with 31 church groups and organizations opposed to gambling and the casino coming to the community," said McNiece. "There's a lot of people in the community who appear to want to speak against it."
As for Gateway possibly bringing in supporters, McNiece said that was up to them, but wondered if it would just be taking up time and resources from Surrey residents wanting to speak.
"The only problem I have with that is that they're taking up seats of residents of Surrey," he said. "They keep saying they're a good corporate citizen, so what's the value in busing in hundreds of people to occupy seats from the surrounding community? If you bus in people from Langley or Burnaby, you're basically occupying the space instead of people who have lived and worked here their entire lives."
Those interested in speaking should note that in order to speak during the public hearing, they will need to register beforehand. According to procedures posted on the City of Surrey's website, registration will begin at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall and speaker tickets will be handed out to all who sign up. Additionally, those speaking in favour of the casino will be given one colour of ticket while those against will be given another and tickets will be handed out on a first-come/first-served basis. There will be no limit on speaker tickets, but the tickets will be used to determine the speaking order for the hearing. Opponents and proponents will alternate during the proceeding.
For those wanting to attend the meeting and let council know their position without speaking publicly, comment forms will also be available starting at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall for people to fill out.
As a large crowd is expected for the public hearing, the proceedings will also be broadcast on monitors in the foyer of city hall for those unable to make it into the council chambers. The public hearing will also be available to view online via livestream.
The public hearing for the South Surrey casino takes place Monday, Jan. 14 at Surrey City Hall at 7 p.m. For more information on the public hearing procedures, go to www.surrey.ca/12680.aspx.
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