By Gary Cameron
Can you effect real change in your neighbourhood ?
The average homeowner cannot be expected to learn the development business overnight. Much of what happens is not transparent to anyone outside the system. There is a lot of money involved, and anyone who wants to
“fight city hall” and developers must be aware that the odds are stacked against them and that this struggle will consume hundreds of hours of time. It is also important to note that the development community contributes massively to municipal election campaigns, and that developers are far more familiar with the process and the individuals involved in that process than you will ever be.
My advice would be simple. Do your homework. Find out as much as you can about the development proposal you are disputing (or are curious about) by using the links below. The GHSA website includes pretty much everything you need to know about the process. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, lots of questions, to the city planning staff and your elected representatives. City of Surrey staff are world-class professionals who advise Council on decision-making. They also work for you, the taxpayers, an in our experience over the last several years while advocating for our neighbourhood, have always been helpful, friendly, and knowledgeable.
If there is a challenge in your neighbourhood, residents have to organize and unite and fight challenges together. They should make their objections loudly and forcefully to city council, through petitions, letters, e-mails and especially through the media. Letters to the editor are important ways to get your message out there.
While my experience was that any informal commitments made by politicians are sometimes dubious( as councillors must answer to so many), and it’s difficult to know how many, if any, of the messages taxpayers send to their elected representatives are actually read, it is almost certain that politicians who want to stay in office read all the stories the media write about them, especially around election time.
Still want to explore taking action against a development you think is wrong or needs clarification?
Here are some basic steps:
- Read and learn from this comprehensive GHSA overview of the Surrey development process. You can’t fight city hall unless you have a basic understanding of how they operate.
- Learn about the development goalposts — Council-approved Land Use Plans — in your area. If you live in Grandview Heights, this map and NCP key will help.
- Learn Planning terminology.
- Using the instructions found here, locate the development in question using COSMOS, determine the planning number and look up the Planning Report to Council report if there is one (this is written by staff before First Reading).
- Get familiar with a Typical Planning report.
- Using Grandview Heights as an example, here’s a detailed explanation of the various elements governing the development process, including all important references to Neighbourhood Concept Plans, which are key to determining what arguments you may have against specific development proposals.
- Want to determine what your odds are of fighting a development proposal? Check the developer’s names against these campaign door databases for the last two municipal elections and see if there’s a correlation here and here. http://contributions.electionsbc.gov.bc.ca/pcs/LESearch.aspx http://www.vancouversun.com/opinion/Searchable+database+funding+your+local+council/2968189/story.html
- Many BC City Councils who approve high density developments in inappropriate areas of their city blame agreements they signed with Metro Vancouver to provide housing for the huge influx of new residents they claim we must provide. However, Metro Vancouver now claims these commitments are not legally binding. http://www.metrovancouver.org/services/regional-planning/metro-vancouver-2040/about-metro-2040/Pages/default.aspx http://www.peacearchnews.com/news/323770661.html
- Read parts 1, 2 and 3 of “So you want to fight city hall?”
- Illegitimi non carborundum!
City of Surrey development resources:
- Land development. http://www.surrey.ca/city-services/3589.aspx
- Development review & approval process. http://www.surrey.ca/city-services/1410.aspx
- Land development engineering. http://www.surrey.ca/city-services/4667.aspx
- Public hearing brochure. http://www.surrey.ca/files/DCT_Public_Hearing_Brochure_2012_web_version.pdf
- Sustainable development list. http://www.surrey.ca/community/9327.aspx
- Surrey Official Community Plan. http://www.surrey.ca/city-services/1318.aspx
- Surrey Planning & Development department. http://www.surrey.ca/city-government/645.aspx