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Infrastructure lagging! Can Grandview function?

This blog piece, by GHSA board member Ted Willmer, focuses on the growing congestion in and around 24th Ave, the crucial highway of Grandview Heights, and the lack of necessary new infrastructure causing the problem.

Below is his letter to the Editor (Peace Arch News, January 27, 2017} and below that, his views on the issues in a letter written to Councillors Starchuk and Woods.

http://www.peacearchnews.com/opinion/letters/412014876.html

Dear Councillors Starchuk and Woods,

A sincere thank you for taking the time to respond to our letter about the urgent infrastructure improvements needed in Grandview. We moved to Surrey in 1994 and have been proud to call Surrey home. The rapid and seemingly unmanaged building boom particularly in Grandview is taking a lot of joy out of our retirement years. We thought we were moving to an area with a well thought out OCP and were looking forward to enjoying the new Grandview pool facility. The deterioted infrastructure we now are being forced to live in is not enjoyable.

What we need to see from the City are actual dates for specific improvements for Grandview.

There are numerous roads that should have been upgraded prior to the massive building spree that has been happening in Grandview since we moved in 4 years ago. None of the main arteries or collector roads have been upgraded and yet thousands of new citizens are now living here with thousands more on the way. We have focused in our previous letters on what is the one area most in need (24th Ave between 161a St and 168 St) which also affects us directly. I truly believe if you saw what we had to endure on a daily basis you would order immediate improvements. 24th Avenue is our and many citizens main arterial road. Our strata is in the unique position of being on the border of the original Grandview town center area built over a decade ago part way down 24th Ave. and the WAR ZONE that 24th avenue starting at 161a street has now become. We lived in the hope that once the several projects were approved/underway (Breeze, Smiths, Soho, Morgan plus others that we would finally be in line for upgrades to 24th Avenue. Sadly nothing you have told us gives us any comfort that improvements will happen this year or any sooner than within a decade. This area of 24th is not driveable many times daily due to the crumbling road surface pounded by dump trucks. All of my neighbours are inconvenienced daily by traffic control stops for the multiple construction sites. (24th Ave., 160th Street, 164thSt, 168th Street) We are constantly forced to deal with severe darkness due to no street lighting and the danger of trying to access 24th street with large construction vehicles parked on the sides of 24th blocking oncoming traffic. This is extremely dangerous for drivers, pedestrians and the occasional cyclist that dares this obstacle course. We currently have put up with construction noise and constant dust in the air due to the extreme volume of construction.

If this part of 24th avenue had been upgraded to 4 lanes we could navigate our area much more conveniently while providing room for the numerous construction vehicles. You are telling us that we might get a small improvement as you are going to find a consultant for a small part of 24th avenue. There is no timeframe for this modest start and the general theme still is significant improvements along 24th avenue for a decade. 24th avenue between 161a street and 168th street should be upgraded this year complete with lights and sidewalks.

Grandview area’s has major infrastructure needs:

The massive building boom in Grandview over the past 3 years has serious consequences. These consequences include the almost total lack of infrastructure improvements and road maintenance. While I have focused my letters on this one area of 24th, it is but one of numerous main arteries and collector roads in Grandview that require improvements. It is the huge number of completed and approved building projects that have exasperated the lack of infrastructure improvements. I list for you Grandviews needs in no particular order of need which all should be completed in the next 5 years not ten.

  1. 24th Ave between 168st and 176st.
  2. 32nd Ave between 168 st and 176 st.
  3. 160th street between 24th and 32nd avenues
  4. 168th street between 24th and 32nd avenues
  5. 168th street between 24th and 16th avenues
  6. 164th street between 26th and 32nd avenues
  7. 16th Ave between hwy 99 and 176th
  8. Croyden is a dysfunctional mess for the completed projects and now multiple large high rises are proposed! Does anyone at City Hall look at the traffic mess we live with?

In addition to these upgrades lets also add to the list 2 seemingly updated arterial road areas that are already deeply congested. It is hard to believe that any quality and accurate planning was completed prior to their build.

  1. 24th street at Croyden Road. This is a complete dysfunctional mess.
  2. 32nd avenue which congests back across 152 street because the freeway entrance is completely dysfunctional.

All of the public services for Grandview are in serious shortcoming due to the massive building boom. The Surrey School Board has been vocal about the infrastructure short comings due to the massive building boom. The Province has only recently recognized the error of not building schools based on reality rather than some out dated modelling.

Councillor Starchuk and Councillor Woods with your backgrounds in Fire Security and Policing we would hope you can recognize the importance of proper infrastructure for Fire and Police to be able to do their jobs safely for themselves and the citizens they serve. Are the modest fire stations at 32nd and Croyden and the one at 176th and 20th avenue sufficient for the existing Grandview citizens not including the thousands of new citizens coming? These have been there for years with no expansion, in fact the fire stations at 32nd and Croyden have had their expansion eliminated due to a recently completed townhouse project surrounding it Are there any policing increases planned for Grandview, there currently is low visibility?

My Grandview home is in crisis. We can not emphasize strongly enough that we need urgent help.

We invite you to meet with us and let us show you the unliveable conditions we have described.

Ted Willmer

 

 

 

Destroying to Create

By Victoria Blinkhorn

In order to create homes for new residents from essentially greenfield land, you must destroy. In Grandview Heights, around the area of 164th Ave between 26th and 28th Ave, it has been a nearly two year process for six acreages not within a Neighbourhood Concept Plan Area (an area with a City-approved land use plan created with public consultation) to go through the development application process. On January 12, 2015 the clearing of the land began and soon the creation of new homes will rise in “Morgan Crest.”

We look forward to welcoming new families into our transforming neighbourhood. The builder is reputable so the new homes are likely going to be lovely.

For many residents, the shock that inevitably accompanies the clearing of green lands, is palpable for those who loved the greenspace that once existed. We miss the nocturnal call of the owl and birdsong of hundreds whose homes were bulldozed.  Those neighbours most directly affected will miss the shade of the whispering trees in the summer breeze and the little creatures they harboured.  It is good to remember what was there before and for neighbours concerned about their recently stripped side and/or backyards, it is also important to know that there is a re-planting scheme to contribute to a buffer that they once enjoyed in the form of natural, albeit overgrown woodlands. At the bottom of this blog are links to the development application process for Morgan Crest as well as to tree retention and re-planting diagrams.

The camera lens is the writer of this blog as it shows some “before and afters” to date.

The first image to set the stage for reference is courtesy Google Earth, summer 2014. The red-bordered land (#1)  is Morgan Crest, the blue #2 to its north a recently-approved extension to the original infill, and #3 a one acre lot whose development application is inevitable. All the trees on property #2 are being removed save two.

infill google earth

 

summer 2014 tele pole

BEFORE: Fall 2014, view eastwards from 164th with telephone pole as reference

Feb 2015 tele pole

AFTER: same spot, during the one week tree-removal period, Jan 12- 20 2015

north view 164 Dec

BEFORE: looking north on 164th at 26th Ave, note telephone pole in foreground as reference, December 2014

north view 174 feb

AFTER: same location, two weeks after site preparation began. Many conifers in the background (to the north) will be removed when development #2 progresses. Surveyors are already on that property.

south face chen pole

BEFORE: Summer 2014, courtesy Google Earth. Looking south on 164th. You can barely see the home at the corner of 164th/26th in top right hand corner by telephone pole

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

south chen pole after

AFTER: same location, February 2015. You can clearly see the house now above the profile of the yellow machinery. Because the angle of the shot is not exactly replicated, the large conifer in the centre of the “Before” picture is the one at the top right hand side of this one, to the left of the machine.

wolff summer 2014 copy

BEFORE: in front of 2737 164th, summer 2014.

wolff 1

DURING: same location, a few days into the clearing in January 2015. Note the red arrow which points to a house on 165th St which was hidden by the trees in above photo.

Wolff 2

DURING: next day. No need for an arrow: there is the house.

wolff 3

AFTER: same house,after the clearing and before the road work begins

From a different angle, here is a view of the part of the development from the south.

jan 12 cropped sm

January 12, 2015

 

 

 

 

 

jan 20 cropped sm

January 20, 2015. Admittedly not as spectacular as a summer view would have been. Note: the distant trees to the right of the large centre conifer (not on the development property) will be removed when the approved development on 28th Ave (#2) begins.

If other GHSA members have their own “before and after photos”, please feel free to send them in to complete the record.

Other documentation behind the genesis of Morgan Crest and the next two annexed development acreages on 28th Ave:

 

Development Application 7913-0226

Member blog opinion about Application 7913-0226

Application 7913-0226 (Morgan Crest) tree removal plan

Application 7913-0226 tree re-planting plan

The continuation of the infill with Application 7914-0225

Member blog opinion about Application 7914-0225

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.

 

Invasive Species and Humans: Lessons from nature about building Communities

By Alisa P. Ramakrishnan, PhD

Diversity, communication, and power! My research on invasive plants makes me think that we could learn a thing or two from weeds about building communities and solving problems. Great weeds often come from lots of different places (diversity), then they hybridize with each other (communication), and then they take over (power). We can use those principles to strengthen our own communities. Let me go over a few things about invasive plants to show you what I mean.

Invasive species come to a new place, and then suddenly they take over. Blackberry has done a good job here in BC – you see it everywhere, especially if you’re trying to traipse through overgrown woods. Kentucky bluegrass is another invasive species. You plant your lawn in one spot and it creeps away from you, sneaking into your rose beds and bulbs. It’s everywhere in our nearby pocket forest, beating down the seedlings of native plants that have to struggle through its thick turf to grow.

1 invasive ivy and suchlike

Invasive plants can have difficulty establishing in a new area – they might not have the resources they need, and they often confront new challenges. Most plants introduced to a new area do not survive. The only way to keep those populations alive is to keep adding more and more plants, trying to keep them from dying out.

But every once in awhile (about 10% of the time), something happens. A plant species that has never been in a new area suddenly takes off running and in a few years it seems you can’t get away from it. Scotch broom on the Island, for example. Those yellow flowers are everywhere! What gives?

The grass that I studied (Brachypodium sylvaticum, or false brome) is invasive in Oregon, Washington and California. But not always. New populations often struggle to survive, and plants there grow slowly. Plants in the main source region, though, grow fast and furious, and make so many seeds that it’s easy for them to stick in people’s socks and take the fast road to new horizons and new possibilities. They have the chance to start their own little invasion.

2 false brome

Why do some areas of false brome struggle while others pump out seeds like mad? The answer is integration (“admixture,” in population genetics talk). The areas that drive the whole range expansion are those that have a lot of different plants with different ways of life, all living together, talking, playing, having fun, making babies…oh, sorry, I forgot which species I was discussing. But yes, when genetically different plants get together and make seeds, the grandbaby plants have an astonishing array of traits. Tall, short, big leaves, small leaves, flower early, flower late, germinate immediately, wait to germinate – anyway, you get the idea. (We’re still working out the details on this for false brome but the overall concept is solid.)

Here’s a possible example – when a problem comes along, like a late freeze that kills lots of young seedlings, there are late-germinators waiting in the soil to pop up anyway, and we humans never notice that there was a major challenge in that patch of false brome this year. The areas of grass with lots of different kinds of plants have an easier time surviving and sending out seeds to new populations.

How does this relate to humans? It seems to me that diversity is a good thing. If I were going to use invasive species biology to run a human community, the first thing I’d want is diversity. Diversity can make up for a severe lack of resources, because people from different areas will be able to combine their ideas (assuming they manage to work together) and come up with completely novel solutions to difficult problems.

3 world map

The second thing we’d need is a common language, or at least some really good translators. Everyone has to get the same information in a way they can understand it, and they need the opportunity to contribute their ideas to the community, and to discuss potential solutions together.

They’d also need the power to bring about the solutions they come up with. You can’t take a diverse community, get everyone talking, come up with solutions, and then shut them down. That seems to not be the point, right?

Let’s say a lot of people go to their local government and say, “We like green space, we like parks, we like huge old trees, eagles and animals, and we like to live here.” The government (hopefully representing the people) can guide the process, helping people talk to each other, come up with solutions, and make cities beautiful, or it can shut them down, catering to only a small group of people.

4 houses by south surrey athletic park copy

If the government manages to bring people together and help them communicate to come up with novel solutions, they can create a community where everyone has the resources they need – jobs, houses, green space to run around in, dog parks, natural areas with old trees for birdwatching and all sorts of little creatures and plants, stores in walking distance, everything! But it takes communication and a willingness on all sides to listen.

9510994

Let’s take a lesson from invasive plants – let’s talk together, work together, and make things beautiful for everyone.

 

~~~

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.

 

How much Grandview water goes into Rivers?

By Alisa Ramakrishnan, GHSA member

Before gabbing about how I did this and why, I’ll put the answer first (this is for a development area about 500m long and 500m wide):

liters of rain on a rainy day
2005 is pre-development, 2014 is after building five townhouse complexes (over 400 units) and over 150 single family homes. Over 1 million liters of rain falls on the roads on a really rainy day.

 

I’ve been watching the rain collect on my narrow streets and run down the drain into fish habitat.

SONY DSC

Every time it rains, I wonder how development has affected the amount of road runoff that ends up in rivers and streams.

 

I did some basic analyses to get a general idea. I chose a recently-developed area, about 256,000 square meters (thanks COSMOS mapping program!), and highlighted the roads (not rooftops or driveways…let’s say that developers have used sub-soil gravel diversions and other techniques to divert that runoff into soil).

glenmore et al road runoff
2005 and 2014, developments east of Grandview Corners (24th Ave & 160th St); roads are colored blue.

I looked at climate data from Environment Canada from a weather station in White Rock, and saw that on rainy days in winter, 10mm was pretty normal, while 30mm was a higher rainfall day. I used Photoshop to calculate square meters of roads, then estimated liters of runoff water. There are no swales here, so road runoff goes right into fish habitat.

About 8 times more road runoff is running into fish habitat after development compared to before. By the way, the detention ponds you see in the picture might hold about 1 million liters each, from my estimates (if they average about 1.2m deep). They’re basically to catch overflow from the drainage pipes, when more water falls than can fit in the pipes. I don’t know what the capacities of the drainage pipes are…but Surrey’s website says it all goes into the rivers without being treated.

I think it’s a bit optimistic to think that 1,000,000L/day won’t have a significant impact on river water quality.

You long-term residents will think I’m astonishingly ignorant, but I’ll plunge on anyway. After visiting a nearby hatchery, I learned that the rivers around here are used by salmon! Maybe the runoff from this development goes to a different area somehow, but the signs on every drainage grate, and the City of Surrey’s own information, says otherwise. “It is important to know that any road run-off flows directly into local creeks and watercourses.”

This Canada government website highlights the dangers of development such as we see here.

There are alternatives – ways to mitigate road runoff. Portland’s Green Streets initiative comes to mind. They use curbside swales, pervious pavement, rain gardens, gutter cut-outs, things like that, to divert water from rivers and streams. Another Oregon website has excellent pictures that show how to do it. And here’s another document, from  California, with marvelous pictures and information.

I’ve seen lots of roadside plantings and curb extensions here that could very easily be modified to soak up some of the road runoff. Maybe that sort of thing doesn’t work here; I admit I didn’t grow up here, and there’s a lot I don’t understand. But I think we should consider doing something to reduce road runoff. It’s worth a shot.

Dr Ramakrishnan’s article is re-blogged from Save Sunnyside Trees

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.

The “Edge” and the “Wedge”: more development into rural/suburban Area 5

Since the 36-lot 164th infill in Area 5 of Grandview Heights passed 3rd reading on June 23, 2014,( final adoption was passed by Council on December 1, 2014.) acreage property-owners who cherish a neighbourhood of quiet country character have been waiting for the other shoe to drop. Drop it did in the form of re-zoning application 14-0225 (16442 28th Ave) whose green sign was posted just days after the election. Click here to see the pre-notification and proposed lot layout).

IMG_9534

Property looking west

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Property looking east

photo

This application needs to be discussed historically in the context of the 164th infill development as its genesis starts there.  Hopefully you will bear with me because as the chronicle unfolds, we will be ping-ponging between Plannning and Council events in the spring and their interaction with/influence on the present situation. Its a great story: please stick around to read it.

The 164th infill is marked within the purple boundary beside the “164th St arrow.” The new application 14-0225 is to the north, marked in red.

164 INFILL 2

On March 11, 2013, Planning and Council recommended to a delegation of seven homeowners on 164th St that they could retain a consultant to proceed with a land assembly and urban infill development within Area 5 of Grandview Heights. This area is zoned RA Residential Acreage, (1-2 units per acre) in the Grandview Heights General Land Use Plan (GLUP 2005). In their appeal to Mayor and Council, homeowners cited lack of ability to sell their properties to due to their narrow configuration and asked for the City’s help to solve their circumstances of personal hardship.

The infill application became active in the summer of 2013. Hundreds of hours of meetings, work, and letter-writing from the neighbours adjacent to this assembly over the period of a year was initiated, including a petition signed by 85 households against the development. This is because the property is located outside of an Neighbourhood Concept Plan Area (Area 5 of the General GLUP has no NCP and therefore planning lots with a density higher than 2 units per acre (1/2 acre) contravenes both the GH GLUP and the Official Community Plan which states that no development can occur in areas without Council-approved NCP. The two-stage NCP process, initiated when landowners have an appetite for development, takes years and considerable resources to accomplish. As soon-to-be-former Mayor Dianne Watts affirmed on September 8, 2014 during a public hearing regarding development in lands without an NCP, “All applications have to wait. It’s a process and a policy that’s been in place since we started the NCP process I think back in the 1980’s. So nothing, there’s no application that will come before council in Stage 1 that will get approved. It will not happen, it cannot happen, it has never happened.” Well, a development that was not even in a stage one NCP area, the 164th St infill, was approved in June 2014 and it is evident that far from being a “one off,” it was designed at the outset for further expansion into non-NCP Area 5.

If you are interested in the timeline of then 164th St infill, you can click here for all details of the neighbourhood’s opposition to this proposal, links to City documents, press, and more.To learn more about the OCP, the NCP Process and the GH GLUP click here.

Below is a brief overview with a focus on the actual passing of the re-zoning and its ripple effect on to other properties which should, according to the OCP, be off limits.

Initially in 2013, the infill assembly consisted of seven property-owners represented by FirstCentury as developer and Hunter Laird as engineering consultant. One property, the most northerly at the corner of 164th St on 16442 28th Ave dropped out of the process. Nico River Developments (Brock Dorword and Dave Balsor) and Hunter Laird have now applying to rezone this seventh property to feature 7 lots on a one-acre property.

The First Century 164th infill rezoning application went to Public Hearing on April 28, 2014. It was referred back to Planning for further work and consultation with neighbours albeit with minimal changes. On June 23rd this development was passed in third reading at the Council’s Regular Land Use Committee, with all members except Councillor Rasode in opposition because the area was not within an NCP and was therefore not appropriate for subdivision into lots less than 2 units per acre according to its GLUP zoning. The video and minutes of the proceedings can be viewed here.

The 164th infill is currently (Dec 2014) awaiting clearing (only 28 of 204 protected trees are being saved) and for the engineering to commence. Here is the approved plan for the 164th infill, with Morgan Heights to the east and Area 5 acreages to the east and south. And a few snaps of the mature trees that will be removed shortly.

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Mature trees on 164th infill site

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Rare grove on 164th infill site … a few of these trees are actually now within a tree protection fence

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Why was this infill allowed?

According to File: 7913-0226-00 Planning Report Date: June 23, 2014, due to “unique circumstances.” Click here to read the sections of the report which note them.

The long, narrow shape of the lots, the hardships suffered by the landowners and other concerns influenced Council’s decision to grant the rezoning. City Long Range Planner Don Luymes noted in a June 17th, 2014 article in The Now Newspaper that

“the six properties are “a bit orphaned” and the city should have perhaps included them in Grandview 1 – Morgan Heights – which the properties are adjacent to on 164th Avenue.

“Hindsight is 20/20. What we maybe should have done, way back when, is drawn the line for 1 that included these properties because frankly, the configuration of the properties and the age and condition of the homes is such that redevelopment could have been anticipated, for sure.”

Luymes said “the plan underway will limit development further into Grandview 5 and like Villeneuve, is confident it will reassure neighbours that their area will remain untouched. The reality is, subdivisions like (the adjacent properties of Area 5 and) Country Woods aren’t built anymore,” Luymes noted.

That’s why we hope to retain them…. Will new development be of that nature? No, it won’t be, simply because of affordability and the viability of development,” he said.

 

Interestingly, I distinctly recall being part of the neighbourhood Planning process to zone the western side of 164th in this exact location in 2004 during the public consultation period of the writing of the GH GLUP and recently came across archival documents such as letters and reports to the City as well as copies of the Open House comment sheets reflecting the views of neighbours, many still living here. Don Luymes is correct: these properties were considered to be annexed into Morgan Heights NCP1 in a way, as they were earmarked for “transitional density” early on in the GLUP process. Predictably, the same arguments I and those engaged in the process (including the late Ken Hall who was fighting for the (ultimately unsuccessful) retention of the lush majestic firs on both sides of 164th St as well as suburban designation for the east side of 164th, Gary Cameron and others) were making focused on maintaining the “status quo” of residential acreages in Area 5. Early GLUP plans earmarked the east side of 164th and the north side of 26th Ave as “transitional density” to buffer the existing RA acreage homes from Morgan Heights to the west and future Orchard Grove NCP 5A to the south of 26th Ave.

This was opposed vigorously by residents, resulting in these lands maintaining their RA designation in the GLUP. However, it has always been a “wait for the other shoe to drop” situation, because here we now have RA lands on 164th becoming urban — not even true transitional lot size — with the approved 164th infill and now new application 14-0225. Meanwhile on 26th Ave, residents on the north side of the street are lobbying more than is reasonably imagined for taxpayers to do to ensure that the south side of the street in Orchard Grove  is a proper gradual transition zone from the RA lots on the north side of the street as specified in the Orchard Grove NCP 5A, not the “buffer” between Orchard Grove and Area 5 properties to the north. Hence we have a complex and interconnected story of changes, policies, and resident expression of perceptions/expectations of neighbourhood realities which far from saying that higher density should not occur, maintains that it can only occur with sensitivity, observance of established land use guidelines, and extensive community consultation.

These documents are compelling reading and perhaps will be explored in a future piece, for but now, let’s return to the return of the 164th infill as it proceeds further into Area 5 in the form of new rezoning application for 16442 28th St.

Details of the 164th Infill and how this new (and future) application(s) were always part of it

The plan for the 164th infill conveniently includes a half-road at the northern border (which you can see  in the above site plan) that sets up the next phase of the build-out of that corner; city planners in their April 2014 staff report to Council (Page 9) were already anticipating that this will take place:

“Proposed 27A Avenue is a half-road, which would be completed if the properties to the north develop in the future. The applicant has prepared a concept plan which illustrates how the properties to the north can develop, with RF-12 lots fronting 164 Street and 27A Avenue, and large urban lots adjacent to the existing RA lots to the east.”

Sure enough, the new application on the corner of 164th St and 28th Ave  (14-0225) consists of the seventh lot of the original infill, which was at some point removed from the final 164th infill assembly and, when you look at the lot plan, you can’t miss the observation the lot to its immediate east is also marked up for subdivision. This suggests that the subdivision layout drawn up by engineering consultants Hunter Laird for the 164th infill had already encompassed, at least conceptually, two more acres into unprotected Area 5 to continue the project.

Here is the 164th infill lot layout for the six properties passed by Council in June 2014 (YELLOW), new Application 14-0225 which features 7 lots on one acre (PINK) The suggestion of implied further development to the east can be seen on 28th Ave, which is currently a rental house (BLUE) and which already shows lot subdivision mark ups for five lots.  The importance of including this in this plan will be seen below. The lot layout for the new application is also below so you can see it in more detail.

infill total devo copy00328_subdivision-layout-Development Concept Plan

Back to the spring of 2014 and the 164th infill for a moment.

Several elements were at play during the April 2014 Public Hearing for the 164th infill:

  • The issue of the OCP being altered for the convenience of both the land assembly’s owners and Planning’s preference to develop urban housing on the east side of 164th north to blend into North Grandview NCP where vacant lots and houses are awaiting development. 85 residents who signed a petition against the development were not in favor of Council abandoning its own land use rules.
  • The concern – actually severe anxiety – of residents of one acre properties in adjacent Area 5 that if “piecemeal” spot zoning of urban infill development was to be approved on 164th, how could these residents have any future confidence that the character of their neighbourhood be preserved for the future in absence of any binding plan? Numerous taxpayers spoke to this issue. The GLUP after all is merely a secondary use plan, and not even an NCP.
  • Density of the infill too high, inadequate density buffering from adjacent 1 acre lots in a few places, amount of tree loss.
  • The further concern that aside from one resident who canvassed the neighbourhood far beyond the City’s 100 metre notification boundary to spread information about the development, there was no greater public consultation because only residents living adjacent to the infill were invited to meetings with the developer and the City.
  • Several positive suggestions were made to make the development more palatable: Tree retention on the most densely treed lot for a “pocket park” was suggested, which would extend the walkway from 27th Ave in Morgan Heights across the street and provide a nice terminus to the path while saving significant old growth trees. And of course the most sensible solution of creating an infill development of ½ acre lots (dearly coveted in Grandview Heights) which would instantly solve the problem of amending the GLUP RA zoning.

When the file returned for third reading after being referred back to staff for several weeks, Mayor and Council had likely heard its fill from neighbourhood phone calls, letters and newspaper articles about the dissatisfaction that the City’ own rules about land use were not being followed.

New residents to an area can have confidence that they are buying into an area that they like regardless of the type of home they are investing in because they see a developed immediate neighbourhood. Long-time and existing residents who see the infill precedent as a means of erosion of a country “rural” lifestyle, however, do not share this confidence and the stress it brings affects feelings of quality of life. Residents wonder “what next” and “when next” because there is no assurance of protective zoning.

 

What Council says about protecting the acreages of Area 5

At both the Public Hearing on April 28th and the Third reading on June 23 2014, certain Council members did thankfully comment on the need for Area 5 residents to feel some measure of security in their properties and way of life despite the infill.   Below are some quotes from the City video of both meetings in chambers:

April 28, 2014 Public Hearing:

Councillor Villenueve: (This is) “an important one acre area in Grandview Heights.”

Councillor Hepner: “I just want to be clear … that all the other properties that are zoned acreage in that area … would like to maintain their protection of an acreage zone would they stay simply fallow until at least half of them came forward and said we’d like to do something different … and the RA’s that are surrounding this stay in that designated form?”

Mr. Lamontagne: “There wouldn’t any changes per se because there would not be an NCP process that would be initiated so the status quo would remain.”

Councillor Heppner: “The status quo would remain, thank you.”

{RA’s are residential acreage zone}

Councillor Villeneuve: “I love the area and preserving those acreage lots is important to me and I’m three generations living in South Surrey so it’s an area that I really do treasure and so I want to make sure those residents feel confident about their investments and their ability to stay there…”

Councillor Hayne: “I’m very much in favour of identifying areas within Surrey that are going to remain one acre in perpetuity so that people can buy into these areas, and buy with confidence that their neighbours aren’t going to all of a sudden put up the green development sign and here we go and the dominos start.”

Councillor Hepner: “I think I agree with Councillor Hayne that there are areas in our city that we would like to see maintained as acres and this is certainly one of those cherished areas and I have friends who live there and I know they love their acreage.”

Councillor Steele: “I really do support the one acre properties. I think it’s really important that Surrey retain those.”

June 23, 2014 – Regular Council Land Use re: 164 Street Infill 3rd Reading

Councillor Hayne: “The residents around this area (referring to the 164 Street development) want assurance that their acreages and their investments are going to be there for them and their families in the future and want assurance from the city that this isn’t the thin edge of the wedge and some creep moving into this community. It’s a beautiful community and I for one certainly wouldn’t support any redevelopment through that area so I would like to see us shore up some of those assurances in that neighbourhood to ensure that their acreages are maintained not just in the short term but in the medium-long term as well.”

Councillor Villeneuve: “If I sensed in this area that there was a big desire for some redevelopment or they wanted planning so they can develop over the next 5-10 years into smaller lots or townhouses to compliment what’s in other parts of the area I would say yes to an NCP but clearly I’ve heard from people that they want this area untouched except for these properties (referring to the 164 Street development) neighbourhood.”

~~

Those, then, are the words from Council to residents of Area 5 in response to concerns that “piecemeal” spot zoning into the neighbourhood (without an NCP) would not occur. It was clearly pointed out that this infill was a “one off.” It allowed a deep breath to be taken and confidence in the future of our properties restored … briefly.

Planning and Council further offered some procedural reassurance to residents of residential acreage property owners in Area 5 who abut the 164th infill during the 3rd reading of the infill application on June 23:

The Corporate Report to Council states

… it is recommended that Council pass a resolution to re-confirm and establish the properties to the east and south of the subject site (the 164th infiill) as one-acre by re-designating these lands from “Suburban Residential (1 to 2 upa)”to “Suburban Residential (1 acre max.)” in the Grandview Heights GLUP (Enclosure IV)

The property owners of acre age properties to the east and south have indicated a desire to maintain their estate homes with no intention to redevelop in the foreseeable future.

Here is the map which shows this added layer of protection. Note that the new application on 28th Ave and the property to its east, which sit atop the 164th infill property, are excluded. Compare these maps side by side. What do you see?

Screen Shot 2014-11-24 at 11.39.23 AMinfill total devo copy

It is somewhat comforting to see this “1 acre max” designation, and in combination with the words of several of the Councillors, one might think that the boundary of the 6-property assembly was done. Not so. Two properties in Area 5 were left out of this designation.  A  Corporate report to Council March 31, 2014 had already stated:

As previously noted, the land use designation of “Suburban Residential (1 to 2 upa)” for the two (2) properties to the north of the subject site, at 16442 and 16446 28 Avenue, is not proposed to be amended. The proposed subdivision layout includes a half-road at the north end of the site, which would be completed if the properties to the north develop in the future.

Because of this circumstance, further consideration of development may be entertained for these two properties, subject to a development application review process. Click here for map.

In other words, the 164th infill was essentially a two-part plan. Part 1 was the 6-property assembly passed in exception to the OCP and GLUP in an area not governed by an NCP in June 2014. Part 2 are the two properties that were left out of the “1 acre max” designation. We are seeing the first element of Part 2 in application 14-0225 because three days after the November 15th election, the green development application sign for 16442 28th Ave went up and pre-notification letters including the preliminary site plan were sent out on the next day.

This new application uses the northern road way of the 164th infill property and “finishes” off the corner of 164th and 28th . The property across the street to the north, on the other side of 28,th is located in North Grandview NCP and is zoned RA (1-2 units per acre), but little imagination is required to speculate that the lots fronting 164th will be, down the hill, also smaller urban size like the lots on 164th. Homes in this zone are a valuable product in the Surrey housing market. Since North Grandview has an NCP and amendments are allowed, increasing density is something that is allowed in the process. Increasing density in lands without an NCP, however, is against the OCP.

Thus when Councillor Hayne perceptively references the “thin edge of the wedge” and the “creep” of urban into a rural acreage area (the homes on the south side of 28th Ave and everything to the east and south of them), the lot which is at the corner of 164th and 28th and the one to its east with the markup already on it is just that.

00328_subdivision-layout-Development Concept Plan

The subject property at 16642 28th Ave is not long and narrow, hence unsellable, like the “challenging” properties of the 164th infill were perceived to be. A wide one-acre property with a generous frontage, it could easily be rejuvenated as the site of a new home, as what is being seen in other parts of Area 5. It is not a property owned by a resident under hardship who is selling because of dire necessity or old age as was the case with the 164th infill land assembly owners. This is a speculative investment property. The same argument exists for the property to its east on 28th Ave (shown below on right)

IMG_953728th east

In fact, this next property (which although is not part of this development application is by virtue annexed to the subject property by Planning’s grouping the two together in the GLUP amendment and map) is really the thin edge of the wedge. If there was an NCP in place, one could rationalize that finishing off the corner of 164th and 28th is a good idea.

But heading eastwards into Area 5? Not only does the development of these two properties (because you know the application of the second one will appear at any time) again contravene the GH GLUP and the OCP, it also contradicts everything our City Councillors said at council meetings about the 164th infill of being an exception, a “one-off.”

infill total devo copy

You can see how these two (soon to be three) lot elements were designed as a unit from the beginning. Very tidy with the edge and a little transitional density. But wait, this is intruding further along a street, 28th Ave, that didn’t factor into the 164th infill in the first place and which is home to well-loved beautiful, aging but well-kept acreage homes on a quiet street. These are homes predominantly lived in by invested owners who like where they live. This will evolve on the north side of 28th eventually as sewer services enable the build-out of the North Grandview NCP, but for the most part, even that NCP zoning is half acre suburban lots fronting 28th Ave. The point is that Area 5 is not meant to be the transition zone to any other NCP as stated in the GH GLUP; other NCP’s have to transition zone to Area 5.

IMG_9532

Bucolic 28th Ave, looking east

If Council supports the new application into non-NCP Area 5, then are their statements of support for keeping Area 5 acreages intact contradictory?

Where does this leave residents of Area 5 who live along 28th Ave and in the 165th St cul-de-sac? Where does it leave anyone who lives in Area 5 who sees development “nibbling” along the edges?  Where does it leave all residents of Surrey who have heard their Council vocally support the uniqueness of a neighbourhood yet remain anxious and unsure about everything from their way of life, erosion of property value, and most fundamentally, the trust in those who decide the shape of neighbourhoods?

I know I want to believe that our respected City Councillors who spoke out in favor of preserving a rare-form of lot size which, as Don Luymes confirms, will not be developed in the future, will support what they have said. When people are willing to buy a home on an acreage lot, tear it down and build new, you know the neighbourhood is in demand and has enduring value. What does it take to enable a neighbourhood to evolve and change without the threat that certain parts of it, which should be protected by the OCP, are not constantly subject to erosion and uncertainty?

Evidently, this application for 16442 28th and the inevitable application for the property to its east which have been planned from the start of the 164th infill to be part of it is a tug-of-war between two concepts: the edge and the wedge. “Edge effects” are ways of finishing a development, street or area with a consistent built form and look. The “edge” is tidy, pleasing, and good planning. The “wedge” is what happens when small changes grow into large ones, by eventually and invasively changing and destroying what was originally there. No one, least of all me, wants to or can stop higher density development in Grandview Heights. Like everything, it has its place in a sustainable mixed-density community. It brings many benefits to a vibrant neighbourhood. However, until Planners and Council take a second look at the creep of growth into a low density area without an NCP, no one who lives there rests easily.

What is coming next?

By Victoria Blinkhorn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

GHSA Mayoral “Virtual” Forum

GHSA “Virtual” Mayoral Candidate Forum

The Grandview Heights Stewardship Association recently invited non-incumbent Council Candidates to participate in a “virtual” forum to address land use issues. We have been posting responses on our website and tweeting them as well to broaden voter awareness of one of the less-topical areas that, as you know only too well, Councillors have to deal with on a routine basis.  The questions, method of delivery, and posting have been executed with all neutrality to enable readers to form their own opinion of who will be good stewards in land use issues.

It has been suggested that we also pose a similar question to the leading contenders for Mayor of Surrey as identified by the CBC in their recent hosted debate.

On Friday, Nov 7th, we emailed the following questions to Linda Hepner, Doug McCallum (via Al Payne as the SafeSurrey Coalition server was bouncing back emails) and Barinder Rasode. To date, we have received one reply, from Barinder Rasode but will post others if received before Nov 15th. To read Councillor Rasode’s reply, click the link below the question which is reproduced as sent.

THE FORUM QUESTIONS

Dear XXX,

The Grandview Heights Stewardship Association recently invited non-incumbent Council Candidates to participate in a “virtual” forum to address land use issues. We have been posting responses on our website and tweeting them as well to broaden voter awareness of one of the less-topical areas that, as you know only too well, Councillors have to deal with on a routine basis.

It has been suggested that we also pose a similar question to the leading contenders for Mayor of Surrey as identified by the CBC in their recent hosted debate

Because we appreciate that your time is at a premium, if interested please email your thoughts and ideas regarding land use planning and development and the goal of environmental sustainability as it applies to Grandview Heights in Surrey.

Please reply within 750 words to the following questions ( below)

Your submission will be posted on our website in a section similar to our Non- incumbent Council Candidate’s submissions ( click here to see them.)

Please email your answer to info@grandviewstewardship.org no later than Nov 10, 2014 so we can post and circulate for your prospective voters.

These are the questions:

-Is the current Grandview Heights Land Use Plan (GLUP) meeting the objectives of the City of Surrey and residents who reside in Grandview Heights?

-Is the Neighborhood Concept Plan (NCP) an effective process to establish and guide new development, re-development in Grandview Heights?

-Is the citizen advisory committee (CAC) meeting its objective to provide local input for land use planning initiatives?    

-What does ‘environmental and social stewardship’ mean to you as it relates to city land use planning?

 

Thank you in advance for participating in this dialogue,

Sincerely

The Grandview Heights Stewardship Association

 

THE FORUM ANSWERS

Barinder Rasode, One Surrey

GHSA “Virtual” Non-incumbent Council Candidate Forum

City Councillors deal with a wide variety of issues in their position as a community liaison between the residents of their municipality and the City government. Much of the discussion during the Surrey election 2014 has focused on crime, and rightly so. However, land use is also a central topic in many minds because good development,  infrastructure, and environmental stewardship creates sustainable and safe communities. City councillors vote on land use issues routinely and are involved in planning and development initiatives.

Recent articles by Daphne Bramham in the Vancouver Sun and by Amy Reid in The Now have stressed the importance of choosing councillors wisely; its not just all about the Mayoral vote. Since currently-sitting Surrey councillors are already on record about their views about land use and development AND since we really haven’t heard much from non-incumbent council candidates about land use, the GHSA Board decided to hold our own “virtual forum” to ask new council candidates their views on land use and more specifically, land use in Grandview Heights.

To be completely fair and transparent, here is how we conducted our “virtual” forum.

Every non-sitting council candidate was contacted by email on Friday, Oct 31 either by their personal/party email or by the contact form on the City of Surrey website. All but one candidate supplied an email contact on the COS website or had an email address.  We asked each candidate the same question, framed by a statement, and requested their responses by the morning of November 4th.  Although we gave this deadline to give readers more pre-election time to read them, of course, as other replies are emailed, they will be posted as received for a day or two. Some candidates chose to include a bit of general platform information so answered more than our five questions, but because that was their initiative, we have not edited their answers to delete those “extra” statements.  The responses were then converted into a PDF file.

HOW TO USE THIS FORUM

The email request for forum responses we sent to the candidates is below. This includes a “context” section for five questions we asked.

Below our logo are the links to the forum participant’s answers: the name of candidates who responded, in alphabetical order. Click on the name and the linked page will take you to a PDF of their answer which will open in a new window. As always, the GHSA presents this information as a resource for readers to read and form opinion.

THE FORUM QUESTIONS

Dear Candidate,

The Grandview Heights Stewardship Association (http://www.grandviewstewardship.org) is hosting a “virtual forum” to find out more about non-incumbent Council Candidates and their views about Grandview Heights. To be fair and inclusive, we are asking all potential council candidates to participate.

This is your opportunity to share with Grandview Heights/ South Surrey residents your thoughts and principles regarding development planning and environmental sustainability. We view this as a promotional opportunity for you as well as a way for residents in our area to find out what you may bring to Council regarding select land use/sustainability issues of neighbourhood concern.
Please address your reply to the following questions below (no longer than 500-700 words).
Your submission will be posted on our website in a special blog section. Please email your answer to info@grandviewstewardship.org by 9 am Tues Nov 4th to enable responses to be posted asap and viewed well in advance of the election.
Thank you in advance for participating! Our Association feels that the voice of Council is so important and we appreciate your personal commitment to building a better Surrey.

Context
Social research puts great importance on community design and ongoing resident-driven evolution as the major factors in the livability, sustainability, crime level and happiness and health of it’s residents.
Grandview Heights was, and still is, as much-loved as any area in Surrey. Long-time residents treasure Grandview’s forested areas, wildlife, large mature trees, and wooded roadways and pathways. New residents in recent more urban developments tell us they love it for the exact same reasons: that there are still trees, space and character all around them.
Residents are concerned that we are experiencing unsustainable growth and urban sprawl, at the expense of quality re-development that respects healthy existing neighbourhoods and a variety of lifestyle and residence choices, and genuine preservation of the natural environment.

Questions

How well thought-out do you think the current Grandview Heights General Use Plan (GLUP) is?

What do you think about the extensive density increases that often occur at the Neighbourhood Concept Plan (NCP) level?

NCPs are “guidelines” not by-laws. What do you think of the ability of developers to apply for amendments to zoning and other NCP elements?

What does ‘good environmental and social stewardship’ mean to you in relation to city planning?

In your opinion, who ‘owns’ a neighbourhood? How do you weigh the ‘ownership value’ of long-term residents and new residents who plan to stay, over other, shorter term interests such as political pressures and the development industry?

Grandview-Heights-logo

THE FORUM ANSWERS

Click on the name of the candidate to read their answer

Maz Artang – One Surrey

Merv Bayda – One Surrey

Michael Bose – One Surrey

Darlene Bowyer – One Surrey

Cliff Blair – Independent

Nav Dhanoya – Independent

Shawn Francis – Independent

Laurie Guerra – Safe Surrey Coalition

Brenda Locke/Stephen Gammer – Team Surrey

Jim McMurtry – Independent

Martin Rooney – Independent

Beau Simpson – Safe Surrey Coalition

Rick Scorsese – Independent

Brian Young – One Surrey

 Thank you Council Candidates for the time and thought you gave to these questions. We look forward to hearing from more Candidates soon to both help further your message and help residents understand your ideas about land development in Grandview Heights.

The 164th Infill

There is an old axiom that you can’t fight city hall. There is some truth in this, unfortunately, but sometimes the issues you are faced with are worth the fight.

Our quiet suburban neighbourhood of one-acre homes, which stretches from 26 to 28 Avenues, and 164 to 168 Streets, is part of Area 5 of Grandview Heights. It is zoned for 1-2 units per acre and has no Neighbourhood Concept Plan at this time.

We had always been told that no development would take place until there was an NCP for our area, and many of us made long-term plans based on these assurances. When a mysterious attempt was made to rezone 6 acreages on 164 Street between 26 and 28 Avenues around the time Morgan Heights was being built, our neighbour, the late Ken Hall, investigated and those plans were promptly dropped.

Read more