Presentation by Victoria Blinkhorn

SPECIAL BLOG FOCUS: for the coming weeks, resident presentations to Council on July 27th regarding a contentious multi-family development in a single family area on the Orchard Grove/Area 5 interface will be posted. Italicized print below contains the background and links. The specific presentations by individual authors are below that. To access all the presentations, refer to the “Recent Posts” list and the “Introduction” at left.

The third presentation in this series is by Victoria Blinkhorn

Good evening Madam Mayor and Council,

As I am unable to attend Chambers this evening, I thank you for the opportunity to voice my opposition to this application through Ted Willmer.

The history of the neighbourhood’s involvement and position on the Tara application is recounted in Appendix 11 in the July 13 Report to Council. As I am a signatory to that appendix this is also my own personal opinion.

I am fully supportive of the Planning Department’s recommendation to Council to refer this Application back to Staff for further work in consultation with the neighbourhood. Surrey is fortunate to have Planning staff that shares expertise with residents and serve as a liaison between neighbourhoods and those wanting to develop in them. This process of working towards consensus between residents and Applicant was followed with the first application to propose duplexes on 26th Ave almost two years ago. At the end of it, in March 2015 when Raicon’s duplex application had evolved into large lot single family homes which were approved for the 26th Avenue interface, I said in Chambers as I will repeat now, that it is better to resolve differences and reach consensus under the direction of Planning before bringing them to Council.

I respect Council’s right to want to hear the opinions of their taxpayer constituents, but at the same time share the feeling of many that Public Hearing is not the ideal forum for critical assessment of an application’s merits or challenges. The public was told at the Land Use Meeting on July 13th when this application was presented to Council for the “first time” that much work had already been done on this application and that it had merit.  “First time”? This is the first time this application has been brought to Council . There have been only 2 Public Information Meetings and one meeting with the Planning Department and residents at which the applicant was directed to sit down and work with the neighbourhood. That direction was ignored. At all three meetings, Tara’s representatives told the neighbourhood what they were going to do, and, sticking to this one duplex plan, did not respond in any way to alternatives or address neighbourhood concerns. When Council states that much work has been done on this application, from the perspective of cooperatively working with the neighbourhood in which it plans to build, I respectfully disagree in saying that no work has been done.

I am in favor of development in principle when the high watermarks of an NCP are followed and when neighbourhoods that are affected by development can rely on the guidelines of the NCP to the same extent that the developer can. I also have no issue with duplexes in principle, just the location of them in this case on 26th Ave on a street of single family low density homes. In fact there are many rowhome developments in Orchard Grove which will deliver affordable and suburban character homes, but appropriate and site-sensitive placement is key in any proposed application.

The interface conditions about 26th Ave are one of these high points of the Orchard Grove NCP because it clearly delineates a way to maintain the existing character of 26th Ave and its neighbourhood to the north and transition with sensitivity to the high density lands to the south towards 24th Ave. Where the NCP offers two different options – duplex or Large Lot single family and a wide unit-per acre housing range – on the south side of 26th, it does so in order to open up dialogue between residents and incoming developers. If the neighbourhood does not care about the build out of the interface, then developers can develop at the highest density. However when the neighbourhood does care, then the challenge of interpreting the range is essential.

There is a wide gap between what the Applicant wants for the property (duplexes) and what the neighbourhood wants (single family large lot homes). Both options are within the Orchard Grove NCP. However, there are standards that the neighbourhood have helped shape, within the process and the NCP, by working with the Planning Department other developers creating new housing on 26th Avenue over the last two years or so. Residents who wanted the lowest range of the density zoning (2 units per acre) have compromised. Developers who initially wanted the highest density zoning (10 units per acre) have compromised. Other developers have seen this compromise and have followed the standard.

 

This standard, as seen in the graphic below, is Large Lot Single Family with a unit-per-acre count of about 3.6 upa and frontages around 30 metres wide. Consistent-width lot sizes with single family homes on the new south side of 26th Avenue will create a street that is complimentary to the existing north side, continue by virtue of the Multi-use pathway and the Green transition buffer, a pleasant walkable experience. The neighbourhood at large is supportive of this emerging plan.

26th with lots

If you look at this streetscape (above) you will see the Raicon development in yellow on the far west of the 26th Ave (on the left). Qualico, whose application you just granted Third Reading is in orange. A new application just posted on COSMOS last week and in initial stages (15-0217) is in Green. It also shows Large Lot Single Family lots. This streetscape shows a fairly consistent large lot theme displaying commitment to the “sensitive transition” between the existing north and new south sides of 26th Ave. Establishing this standard, as you know Madame Mayor and Council, has been a process that has happened over the last two years and with developer and the neighbourhood working together to create an interface that serves both existing residents as well as a transition to higher density to the south in Orchard Grove.

Yellow, Orange and Green blocks in the map show Large Lot Single Family plots averaging a width of 30 metres with land the same depth as Tara’s application’s, less the green buffer allotment.

When you look to the east (right) to Tara’s plan, noted in blue on the street map, there is no consistency of Large  Single Family lots but a jarring disconnect.

There are still one acre properties across the street on the north side, but here they are facing the equivalent of a row of RF 12 lots. On the south side of 26th, although not shown on this diagram, the three single family homes to the east of the Tara property (who are not planning to move) are each on lots closer to Large Lot single family size. Why has the consistent streetscape on the south side of 26t, in Orchard Grove which has emerged to follow the NCP’s intent to create a sensitive interface, stopped at 166th Street?

I oppose Tara Development’s application with 16 duplexes and 1 single family small lot home on a property less than two acres in size and on an established single family, low density street for many reasons:

  1. the density inequity of 9.3 units per acre across from one unit per acre on the south side of 26th compared to 1 unit per acre across the street. 17 units on one side of the street does not indicate a sensitive transition from 2.5 homes across the street or 3 homes on the same side of 26th to the east. Sensitive transition between new developments to the established neighbourhood is one of the requirements of the NCP and cannot solely be determined by built form and massing. Duplexes that look like single family “estate” homes are not single family homes. Density plays an essential role.
  1. the housing type disconnect between single family everywhere else on 26th . The application behind this property has also been rezoned as single family.
  1. the attitude of the Applicant that just because their duplex proposal is within the NCP’s zoning guidelines for Large Lot Single Family OR Duplex 2-10 units per acre, that no changes should be made in order to address neighbourhood concerns, eventhough the preponderance of the neighbourhood preference is for Large Lot Single Family where zoned on 26th

OG p 7

  1. because the transition green buffer has been removed entirely from this Application and because of the density and form of the proposed building design, there will be little or no room left for comprehensive new tree planting. This creates a stark contrast to the NCP’s goal for Orchard Grove to be a pleasant “walkable realm.” 26th is the pedestrian and cyclist-friendly east-west alternative to 24th Walkers, jogger, cyclists travelling to the Aquatic Centre, school and future amenties on 186th and beyond currently enjoy the street because it is green and quiet. Future development on the new south side of 26th Ave feature a green buffer and single family homes with front yards. In this application, however, beside the Multi-use Pathway will not be a green buffer or even a spacious lawn of a single family home. Here will be a tiny lawn (maybe) and a massive towering row of 3500 square foot duplexes (joined together that is almost 8000 sqaure feet of building taking up 60% of the lot) with only possibly 28” of space between each pair. This is not 12’ between each duplex as Tara’s representative states because once you factor in the 3′ wide cement stairwells which are part of each duplex and the fence separating them, there will be little more than 2’ between them.

The architect’s renderings euphemistically show a single duplex flanked by green space and trees. Since this is completely impossible if you carefully look at and measure the site plan, it underscore the difference between rendering and reality.

If there is no compensation for the removal of the green buffer by enabling single family large lot homes with room for green space, the NCP fails its commitment not just to transitional density, but to its walkable realm.

  1. There is a precedent for Large Lot Single Family on the 26th Ave interface which has already been guided by the NCP and passed by Council. The Applicant has refused to look at that option with the community despite the fact that the property adequately meets the minimum requirements for Large Lot Single family homes without a green buffer (which has been removed anyway)

How is it then that with two approved re-zonings (with a third in initial stages) which are evolving 26th Avenue on the south side into a street that both the residents, the NCP, and Council itself approves of AND with a Planning department recommendation that more work be done on this application before being presented to Council, that we find ourselves here tonight?

The neighbourhood wondered this too, so after this duplex application was given second reading two weeks ago, the Grandview Heights Stewardship Association hastily organized a petition to collect the feedback Council had requested.

This petition was been submitted to the City Clerk on Friday July 24th.

petition map

Pink indicates over 360 taxpayers are opposed to this duplex development on 26th Ave.

The reasons residents opposed the duplex include:

-the application density is too high

– it not a sufficient transition to homes to the north and to the east and to the proposed new homes to the west

– lack of green space in the application and not enough room to incorporate new plantings to make the Multi-use Pathway a green place to walk,

-the duplex home type is out of context for 26th.

– Most residents who signed were in favor of a commitment to the process by supporting a referral back to staff for more work, and most of all, the desire for residents to see only single family homes on 26th Ave.

A few observations about the petition map:

Although 364 residents signed to oppose these duplexes, this is only a partial map showing the more immediate area. There are signatories opposed this application whose homes extend beyond the boundaries of this map so they are not reflected here

  • households opposed to this application are indicated in Pink.
  • Many residents were away on summer holidays so blank spaces do not necessarily indicate support for the duplex application or a “will not sign”
  • If you look at the area directly adjacent to the application, you will see that the three established single family homes to the east of the Tara property oppose duplexes. These families do not want 17 new neighbours when the NCP tells them they could have fewer homes beside them with lots large enough for tree planting in lieu of a green buffer next to the sidewalk. With a few exceptions (because petitioners could not get hold of the homeowners), the homes across the street oppose these duplexes, as do the residents on 166A/27th With only a few exceptions, 26th Avenue in its entirety is opposed to this application.
  • Much of the area adjacent to the application on the south side is under development so there were no residents to canvass
  • Response from the acreage areas to the north and east support the need for better transitional density on this project
  • Response from multifamily developments in Morgan Heights gained interest based on the fact that since the transition green buffer in this application is removed, that the possibility of more new plantings would be more likely on single family Large Lots than on duplex lots
  • Many future transition areas (such as properties in or adjacent to North Grandview NCP) are concerned with the outcome of this application and are concerned with their own potential interface outcomes

Based on:

  • the precedents that Council itself has already approved for other applications on the 26th Ave interface for Large Lot Single Family
  • the overwhelming feedback from the neigbourhood that duplexes are not wanted on 26th Ave
  • the desire for residents to have an enjoyable walkalble realm, as upheld in the NCP, on what is increasingly the preferred east-west corridor between areas to the west and present and future amenities and which will be made more “green” by large lot front yards which can potentially accommodate plantings
  • the market for large lot homes in this area as evidenced by the near sell-out of Morgan Crest’s lots on 164th Street between 26th and 28th The single-family market in Grandview is booming. While is clear that single family homes on this site would sell easily and with profit, why will Tara not consider them?

It is clear that the neighbourhood, having been invited to speak in this public forum, has done so with its voice expressing opposition to duplexes on 26th Avenue.

If Tara Developments wishes to engage in a meaningful discourse to explore alternatives in the Large Lot Single Family guidelined zoned, within the NCP, then resident stakeholders will be glad to take a seat at the table. On the basis of the precedents already set, Council’s own transition practices and policies, the NCP’s guidelines, and the representation of engaged residents who oppose this application, I join over 360 neighbouring residents in asking Council for an opportunity to improve this application by referring it back to staff or, in the case that the applicant does not want to work with the neighbourhood it is building in by planning Large Lot Single Family homes, to denying it altogether.

OG NCP p 25

Going forward, the solution to support smart development on 26th Avenue is simple and clearly indicated in the NCP, as in the diagram above. In order to become a cohesive addition to the streetscape and the neighbourhood’s existing and evolving character, this application needs to go from the right hand column to the left. Duplex to Large Lot Single Family homes. The lot depth for Large Lot Single Family is within the NCP requirements, there is a booming market for large lot single family homes and there is lot width flexibility that can be discussed between the Planning department, the Applicant and residents in order to reach a plan more suitable to bring to Council. The NCP says that Orchard Grove is to be a “vibrant and inclusive neighbourhood” (p 7). Then please be inclusive and respect the NCP and the input of immediate neighbours in and around Orchard Grove. Over 360 concerned residents need Council to consider this clear and sensible solution.

Thank you.

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The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s and are presented here by the GHSA to encourage healthy debate. The GHSA Blog exists as a resource to enable members concerned with the environmental and community stewardship of Grandview Heights to voice perspectives. When directors of the Association contribute to the blog, they do so as private citizens, not as officers representing the Association. The GHSA reserves the right to edit, condense or reject any contribution