City of Surreys corporate interests vs. the will and well-being of the people
” Surrey- the future lives here.” – City of Surrey motto.
” In Surrey, cash from developers trumps the safety of the citizens” ~ Death by Diesel website.
Once upon a time, in a land far, far away from the hustle and bustle of big city life, was the community of South Surrey. Bucolic fields of hay surrounded lovely, young neighbourhoods in some parts, older established homes in others. Of course, such an area attracted many young families eager to escape the noise and pollution inherent to big city life, in addition to to the more professional crowd, and a large population of seniors.
Life was good.
Children played, seniors shopped and visited, moms and dads relaxed in their back yards after a long day at work, enjoying the quiet reverie such neighbourhoods provide. Shops began to spring up, and soon the area was nearly self sustaining, to the delight of many.
That is, until the big trucks started using 32nd avenue as a shortcut from the highway to the City of Surrey’s new industrial development – Phase 1 of the Campbell Heights Business Park : http://www.surrey.ca/files/Campbell_Heights_Brochure_2011.pdf
32nd avenue is currently only two lanes wide and runs right through the heart of several neighbourhoods – Morgan Creek, Rosemary Heights, Grandview Heights and Kensington Prairie – but the city is now planning to widen part of this avenue to a major four lane artery to “accommodate increased traffic flow.”
No kidding. If you build it, they will come.
Currently an estimated average of 700 large diesel trucks with trailers -often piggybacked – are already rolling down 32nd avenue with alarming frequency, right through densely populated neighbourhoods and right by schools. There have already been accidents and residents worry about the safety of both themselves, as well as children in the area once the avenue widening is completed and even more trucks are using the route. This is in part because of the speed with which these trucks are driving on this road, but also because of the toxic diesel exhaust they are spewing non-stop, on a daily basis.
The business park is currently only 10% occupied… and it doesn’t take a city planner or traffic analyst to see what’s coming for these neighbourhoods. And believe it or not, with so much high density residential development here, 32nd avenue is still designated a truck route, although for many years previous to 2003, it was not.
Residents of the area began to wonder what was going on, and how this could happen to their community. And so the 32nd Avenue Alliance was born. They investigated, they called, they questioned, and what they found was a can of worms that no one seemed eager to open.
Co-chair of the Alliance, Ross Buchanan says the city is in a conflict of interest when it comes to addressing the issues along 32nd avenue, and the Campbell Heights Business Park, of which 32nd avenue goes directly to.
The Surrey Development Corporation is the anchor developer of the business park. The corporation is wholly owned by the city of Surrey, and mayor Dianne Watts, city manager Murray Dinwoodie and councillor Linda Hepner sit on the board of directors. ( yes that is the same Murray Dinwoodie who was a negotiator on the provincial RCMP contract despite the fact that the city of Surrey already was awarded the E division headquarters- but no conflict there, right? ; )
When the direction of the development corporation diverges from the duty of the mayor and council to act in the best interests of those who elected her, this is perhaps the situation that occurs.
From the Death by Diesel website – a must read that I could not have researched better myself . The concerns and issues raised are truly alarming in context :
Conflict of Interest…To further complicate the matter the City of Surrey is in a conflict of interest. The Surrey Development Corporation is the anchor developer of Campbell Heights Industrial Park. They are wholly owned by the City of Surrey and the Mayor and Councilor Hepner sit on the Board. The City of Surrey bought a large tract of agricultural land at the corner of 192nd street and 32nd avenue from the province for $35,000 per acre. In total the city owns 800 of the 2000 acre industrial site. The city flipped the land they bought from the province from “agricultural” to “industrial” and are now selling the lots for $750,000.00 per acre. In addition the city will benefit directly from hundreds of million of dollars of new tax revenue. There has been no Environmental Assessment of the impact of thousands of diesel trucks a day racing through our communities spewing their toxic cocktail of deadly exhaust and what is clean is that none of the politicians want an Environmental Assessment because of what it will reveal. There has been no Environmental Assessment nor is there a willingness to conduct an Environmental Assessment because they know what the answer will be…and it isn’t what they want to hear.
For the last year we have been getting the run around from all levels of government. Both politicians and staff. The Mayor and Council in Surrey tell us that the designation of 32nd avenue as a Truck Route is the responsibility of Translink and has nothing to do with the city. The CEO of Translink has provided us with a letter clearly stating that the designation of Truck Routes in Surrey is the responsibility of the Mayor and Council. We find these conflicting statements confusing .
We asked the Chair of the Environment Committee at Metro Vancouver for a mobile air quality monitor to collect the data on diesel exhaust emissions along 32nd avenue. He informed us that MV “has an agreement not to interfere with anything that Dianne has happening in Surrey”. The province tells us that Metro Vancouver has Regulatory Responsibility for Air Quality in the region yet the Chair of the Committee refused to do anything that would be perceived as “interfering” with Surrey even though lives are at risk and the city is killing us. We have asked Joe Transollini, the Chair of The Environment Committee as well as the Chair Lois Jackson and the CAO Johnny Carlyne to clarify this situation but have received no response. It should be noted that the Vice-Chair of this committee Surrey Councilor Linda Heppner also sits on the Board of Directors of Surrey Development Corporation who is the anchor developer for the 3 square mile industrial zone. Terry Lake the Minister of Environment has written us informing us that… “As you are aware, EMA has delegated authority for air quality management and air pollution control to the Greater Vancouver Regional District (GVRD) within Metro Vancouver. Therefore, any requests for additional air monitoring are at the GVRD’s discretion.” We have met with the Environment Committee of Metro Van and to say the least they are “confused” with what their roles and responsibilities are and have committed to clarifying what their job is with the ministry.
In addition we have requested a meeting with our MLA Kevin Falcon. His assistant has indicated that Kevin Falcon is not available to meet with us to talk about how he may be able to help his constituents. We are left to wonder if the fact his money guy Ryan Beedie is also a key developer of Campbell Heights has something to do with our MLAs refusal to meet with his constituents?
What is clear?
- The conflict of interests that exist between the politicians and the big money from developers that is behind them and which controls them on one side and the citizens of Surrey on the other side has corrupted the planning process in Surrey. The collusion between developers and their political puppets in Surrey is unethical.
- The fact that the City is now its own developer and has established the Surrey Development Corporation which is controlled by and reports to the council means that the citizens of Surrey have lost the objectivity of an independent council. The council has become the developer!
- The jamming of a five lane thoroughfare through a narrow opening in the heart of these high density neighborhoods without providing for the safety of the public with adequate setbacks is immoral and will result in deaths from both Cancer and Truck Accidents.
- There are already highways with setbacks that have been built for the highway trucks and which are readily accessible to the highway trucks. What is it that we don’t know? Why is it that the city is so determined to run thousands of 18 wheelers a day through our neighborhoods within mere meters of pre-schools, community centers, playgrounds and nursing homes when there are other alternatives already available?
- In Surrey cash from developers trumps the safety of the citizens.
My, my, my…. all the same names, in yet another location. No wonder council makes noises and laughs when presented with a request for a delegation of residents to present their concerns. Video link: http://www.deathbydiesel.ca/surrey_council.html
Just to be clear, this is not the first issue with this business park, nor will it likely be the last. The development has been under fire from day 1, and it continues to be a questionable action on behalf of the mayor, who has supported and pushed for it for years- despite admitting the first phase wasn’t handled well.
How much money was spent running city utilities and services out to this remote location?
Why would anyone place a truck-dependent business park out in the middle of nowhere, on routes lined with residential communities?
How can the mayor and council remain independent of influence when they are sitting on the board of their own corporation whose goals may very well be, in this case, at odds with the sustainability and livability of an entire region?
And what chance do those who are trying to save their homes, their health and their peace of mind have when faced with so many stone walls in opposition?
Well, we have the truth. And we have Egyptians right here in Surrey.
Numbers of residents in opposition to the City of Surreys plans for 32nd avenue are growing quickly, and if you live in this area and want to lend your support, please check out
http://www.deathbydiesel.ca/contact.html to get in touch.
**note, while I could not find anything in Surrey newspapers about this issue, the Peace Arch news have been covering it for sometime. http://www.bclocalnews.com/surrey_area/peacearchnews/news/125519438.html
There will be more to come on the interesting ALR land deals in South Surrey- some also involving numbered companies and potential conflict of interest with officials – shortly.