Rural designation for Grandview Acres in Area 5: approved by Council Sept 2015

Background

Over the last decade as in increasingly high density development has become prevalent in Grandview Heights, a major concern of many longtime residents and owners of acreage properties who wish to see their unique neighbourhoods remain low density, has been how to maintain the status quo. City Councillors and the Mayor have publicly expressed their views that certain acreage neighborhoods of a particular rural character remain “as is” until residents/taxpayers declare an appetite for development.

Development and zoning in Surrey follows the guidelines of Neighborhood Concept Plans. In Grandview Heights,

Morgan Heights NCP 1

Sunnyside Heights NCP 2

North Grandview NCP

and Orchard Grove NCP 5A

provide a “blueprint” for future neighborhoods, civic utilities, and amenities such as schools, community centers, and parks to name a few. Redwood Heights NCP 4 has just entered its second phase of planning work. Grandview Heights areas 3 and 5 remain without Neighborhood Concept Plans.

GLUP-GHSA-lg-2

One area of Grandview Heights called Redwood Park Estates has a “rural designation” in the Official Community Plan. The OCP is the land use “umbrella” that informs all NCPs in Surrey and is itself in part influenced by Metro (formerly GVRD) land use long-range planning.

The rural designation means that the one plus acreage properties will stay “as is” for the foreseeable future and will not be subject to rezoning applications for development or infill development other than what the RA (Residential acreage) zone dictates. Until it’s residents want to pursue a neighborhood concept plan, one will not occur for Redwood Park. For more on NCPs and the relationship between NCPs and the OCP click here.

In reaction to gradually escalating concerns about transitional density between higher density new NCP areas and an stable acreage neighborhoods (without NCPs) as well as the impact of an infill development on 164th St. street between 26th and 28th Avenues in Area 5 which began to erode into and de-stabilize the one acre neighbourhood of Grandview Acres and its peaceful, quiet, treed community of rural-suburban character, neighborhood feedback encouraged several residents to approach City of Surrey staff to find out what types of protection could be put in place in a specific area where higher density development is not wanted but the surety of acre minimum lots with one home per lot is.

GAcres area

grand path1visitor

Several times in the recent history of Surrey, neighborhoods have declared themselves “off limits” to significant change — Bolivar Heights in North Surrey where house size restrictions were put in place in order to preserve the smaller “quaint house look” of the neighborhood, an area of South Surrey where CD zoning prevented any lots smaller or larger than half acre, and the example of Redwood Park Estates to mention a few.   City Council itself has acknowledged that the increasingly rare existence of one acre neighborhoods is something to be preserved when that is the will of the taxpayers who have invested and continue to enjoy a particular quality of life there. Residents of “Grandview Acres (the quadrant of land from 164th to 168th streets and 26th to 28th avenues) did not want to wait until an NCP was initiated for Area 5 because typically the mass assembly of land in advance of an NCP can be very destabilizing to neighborhoods. Many were also suspicious of the possible precedent that the 164th St infill (Morgan Crest) had set.

For more on the NCP process click here.

Instigation and timeline

To this end, meetings were held with the City Manager, General Manager of Planning and other senior South Surrey planning staff in December 2014 and January 2015 to review possibilities that would enable the residents of Grandview Acres to explore the ability to remain a “status quo” acreage neighborhood along the lines of that enjoyed by Redwood Park Estates. It was determined that the most pragmatic method was indeed to pursue a re-designation in the Official Community Plan for for this neighbourhood. On January 12, 2015, Mayor Hepner directed Planning Staff to begin facilitating the re-designation during the Regular Council Meeting.

Grandview Acres was formally zoned as RA (Residential Acreage) but in the recent new Official Community Plan, this designation has been changed to Suburban Urban Reserve. This is also the case for most of the land in Area 5.

The Planning Department offered this explanation to residents of the area:

The “Rural” OCP designation is intended to support low-density residential uses on large properties. Subdivision of property within this designation is generally restricted to 0.8 hectares (2 acres) or larger. A re-designation to the “Rural” designation would facilitate the long-term retention of acreage properties with no expected future redevelopment (other than the construction of new dwellings on existing lots) in either the short-term or the long-term. If the OCP is amended to re-designate the properties within the area to “Rural”, the GLUP will also be amended to re-designate the properties from “Suburban Residential (1 unit per acre max.)” and “Suburban Residential (1-2 units per acre max)” to “Rural”.

Rural designation properties typically do not have access to sewer. The Grandview Acres area would be grandfathered into the rural designation because of its proximity to access to sewer in Morgan Heights, Orchard Grove, and in the future, North Grandview NCP. Most Homes in this area are on septic with only one new-build home considering connecting to the available sewer to date. The Rural Designation adds an extra layer of protection against piecemeal high-density development before an NCP is undertaken. Applying for a Rural Designation, most importantly, enables residents to have a say in the future of a neighbourhood rather than simply wait for speculators to prey upon it.

Process

The following process was explained to the neighborhood by Planning:

  • The neighborhood would sponsor a petition to gauge the reaction of residents to the rural designation. This was completed by mid March 2015 with an overwhelming majority 89% of residents in favor of the rural designation. Neighbors went door to door to explain and drop off/pick up the petition. A few offshore property owners were unavailable, one or two residents were against the re-designation, and a small number of residents chose not to fill in the petition.
  • A Public information meeting was held on March 25, 2015 when the Planning Department was able to discuss with residents the implications of the rural designation.
  • The Planning Department mailed out its own survey asking residents to mail/ email/ or drop off their survey in favor or against the rural designation.
  • The City Manager informed that a Planning Report to Council would be written so the designation could go to Mayor and Council for their decision to re-designate the area before the summer recess at the end of July 2015. A public hearing will be held in order for residents to voice their opinions about the re-designation.

The “Rural Designation” went to Council for First and Second reading in July 2015 then was passed at Third Reading on September 14, 2015.

Media: November 25, 2015  Surrey Leader