If a tree falls in the forest, does anyone in the city hear? * UPDATED April 3/2015
* Update April 3rd,2015
I received a reply from Jess Dhillon, head of Acquisitions & Development at Redekop Development Corp and I followed up with a phone call where we talked more in depth.
This is his response:
Regarding your comments, in response to neighborhood complaints, we received a notice from the City of Surrey on March 9th, stating that the Premises at 5750 Panorama Drive, did not meet City property maintenance standards; “Surrey Property Maintenance and Unsightly Premises By-Law, 2007, No. 16393”.
More specifically, household garbage, glass, syringes and other debris throughout the property. We were asked to remedy the Property within 14 days.
The City was notified that the site was being assessed for clean-up, after reviewing an arborist report that had already been written up and submitted to the City.
Work commenced on March 24th to clean out excessive blackberry bushes and all small growth trees, defined by the caliper size and height, maintaining that no trees noted in the report were damaged.
The goal being to clean the site up to make it undesirable for trespassers to dump garbage, inhabit, etc.
We would preferred to leave the site as is, until we had met with the City to begin the rezoning process for Development, as we would then have had a chance for our first Public Meeting with the local Community.
Typically, we would wait till we are ready for construction before we do any site clearing, which we estimate to be in the Winter of 2015.
On a side note, our communication has been limited to the Panorama Neighborhood Association, until we can reach out to everyone in Public Hearing. Feel free to contact me directly with any questions or concerns. “
In speaking with Mr.Dhillon, he contends the development company thought they were operating within the parameters of the city of Surrey’s requirements,but should have had an arborist on site during this clearing. He reviewed the site with the arborist yesterday and is waiting for the arborists report and recommendations.
He also stated that this was not how the company intended to introduce themselves to the community but had to respond to the cities cleanup order within 14 days,leaving very little time to notify local residents. When asked if he felt that the order to clean up the property required the removal of so many trees, he maintained much of the undergrowth could not be removed without taking trees as well, and that none of the trees taken were identified by the initial arborists report as ones to save.
Mr. Dhillon also expressed a great challenge in connecting with residents of the area not involved with the Panorama Community Association and I again, direct residents of the area to sign up at the link in the story below, to receive updates and get engaged in the process moving forward.
Back in 2012, the province announced it was going to sell several public assets in order to ‘balance’ the budget. Among the properties in Surrey to be sold, was one the province had set aside for future health care expansion in the region:
“In February 2012, the provincial government announced that it would sell off 15 acres of prime land in Sullivan, at Highway 10 and 152nd Street, which had been earmarked for health-care development under the Surrey Official Community Plan’s South Newton Neighbourhood Concept Plan.
At the time, Ralston likened it to selling the family’s jewels to buy groceries.”
A more accurate description for this particular lot of land couldn’t be found. Thick with blackberries,a forest of trees covered most of this land and residents were happy to have the green space in the interim,with the knowledge it would go to health care for the region at some point- a good use and vital infrastructure.
There was significant disappointment when the property was finally sold to Fairborne Homes, a developer with townhome projects in the Sullivan area. Concern the sale was extremely shortsighted in light of the tremendous growth in the South Surrey region, neighbourhood residents began to think forward to what kind of development might occur in the area.
With a glut of townhomes currently on the market in Sullivan/Panorama, and some developments not able to sell the current new stock off completely, the news Fairborne had sold the property was not surprising, although residents were not informed of the sale.
What tipped the neighbourhood off, was the week long clearing that has been going on, unabated,unchecked and with not a rezoning or development application in site along any portion of the property.
The property in question is at 5750 Panorama Drive, and runs nearly the entire length of the drive to the north, bordered by 152nd to the east and a strip mall to the south and west.
I spoke with the planning department and the new developer intends for approximately 200 townhomes to the north of the property, a 4 story low-rise apartment building to the south and commercial along 152nd.
The planning details are in it’s very initial review,nothing has been submitted or gone to council at this time:
The developer however, is already promoting construction starting in the winter of 2015:
Concerned at what appears to be very extensive clearing of the property, I made some calls to both the tree permit/landscaping department and the building permit department of the City of Surrey – at the time of this posting,neither department had called back.
The planning department however,has received several calls on this clearing. While some trees remain, the use of an excavator to tear trees down has also damaged remaining trees, as shown in the photos below.
The city of Surrey’s commercial development information for tree cutting and permits gives the following info for developers putting forth applications for development : http://www.surrey.ca/community/16198.aspx
It would appear that before anything substantial could even be done with regards to clearing the property, a permit would be needed,trees designated to be saved would have to be surrounded with plastic barriers etc. In a full walk around this property, none of this has been done, nor is there any signs or permits posted.
While there is great concern among the neighbourhood residents that some trees that have been cut are of a bylaw protected size, it is extremely alarming that such an extensive clearing could occur before anything has been put before council,without any community consultation and prior to any rezoning or development application approval.
It is not just undergrowth and vegetation that has been removed- a reasonable course of action and one no one could complain of- but trees of many sizes and heights.
In December of last year, a report commissioned by the city itself detailed how much of the tree canopy the city had lost, and how hard they would have to work to turn that around:
“In 2001, 33 per cent of Surrey was covered by trees, the report shows. By 2009, that dropped to 30 per cent, and four years later the figure had sunk to 27.17 per cent.
The numbers represent a decline in tree canopy of 17.66 per cent over those 13 years.
Surrey is aiming to be at 40 per cent by 2058, but it will require some significant changes to turn things around.
New developments are a large contributor to canopy loss, according to figures in the report.
The average existing single-family residential development (city-wide) in 2009 had 23.5-per-cent tree canopy. Now, the average new home construction has a 2.6-per-cent tree canopy.
The figure is even more stark in South Surrey, where it dropped from 47.8 per cent in 2009 to 7.7 per cent for new developments.
Similar drops occurred across the board when comparing existing developments to new ones.
“With current practices, the tree canopy will continue to decline and it could fall to somewhere between 21 per cent and 27 per cent over the next 50 years, depending on the development practices,” the report states.
The report indicates Surrey needs to set tree-canopy targets in each type of land use and fix decade-long targets with an aim to reach 40 per cent by 2058.
It also recommends updating existing bylaws to place more emphasis on tree canopy.”
Clearly, when 15 acres of land can be cleared extensively in a week, without anything being rezoned, or approved. something has gone wrong.
From the shortsighted sale of provincial land, to this devastating cut that no one seems to have answers to, it’s a bit of a mess. There is a process and bylaws in place,but in this case, perhaps one needs to question the process itself when something like this can occur on such a large block of land. Residents I’ve spoken with are not opposed to development in general, but in favour of viable, well-planned and well-paced development.
I was at the site this morning, and many of the trees left standing in these photos, are now gone. As the excavator was clearing one stand of trees, rabbits were running crazy down the sidewalk,nearly into my feet in confusion, trying to find a place of cover where all the cover was gone.
There wasn’t much I could do,but watch.
The time to get engaged is now, if you aren’t already- If you live in the Sullivan/Panorama area and wish to keep updated and get involved in the process of this development as it progresses, please check this link,and get engaged in the future of your community:
* City update: Following several calls by myself and area residents,bylaws and an arborist are attending the site today, and I will update this story as it develops. An email has been sent to the developer asking for comment, but this was taken late this afternoon as a city staff person was on site documenting the clearing and remaining trees.
Click on each photo below for a larger view.