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:

“Hi Laila,

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.

~ LY

————————————————————————-

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:
Panoramaproperty
The developer however, is already promoting construction starting in the winter of 2015:

redekop

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:

https://panoramaneighbours.wordpress.com/about/membership-form/

* 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.

2015-04-01 022

Click on each photo below for a larger view.

41 thoughts on “If a tree falls in the forest, does anyone in the city hear? * UPDATED April 3/2015

  1. “It’s better to beg for forgiveness than to ask for permission.” It’s a way of life in Surrey.

    If you’re a developer working Surrey you know how the game is played. Our bylaws have no teeth!

    Only with input from the citizens of a direct democracy government in BC can we stop local governments from forever damaging our lands just for profit. Surrey is not the only municipality that lets developers do what they like, Profit and tax revenue is the bottom line.

    Like

  2. brianp1950

    when we run out of assets to sell how are we going to balance the books, the budget is not balanced as they suggest cause our debt is going up close to $3 billion dollars this year.

    Like

    1. Laila

      No kidding. This would have made an excellent site for not only a future healthcare facility, but for a new school, or high school, or any other vital infrastructure. At least then the asset becomes a needed and valued part of the community.

      Not sure where this one ends up,it will depend on what the arborist and bylaws officer finds. The equipment is currently not operating while they review the site.

      Like

  3. Laila; It seems like it has been too long since I read your comments. My bad. Brilliantly written. If you think Surrey is being wiped out of its tree canopy come on down to White Rock one day. I plan on organizing a DRAW TREE FROM MEMORY contest.
    David Chesney

    Like

    1. motorcycleguy

      I can tell you anyone from Coquitlam would have a hard time winning that contest. Their memories have faded. The land of 45% allowable lot coverage, 36 foot roofline height and no floor area ratio limit….where 8500 sq foot homes are commonplace in old established neighbourhoods. Any tree that “falls” inside that 45% allowable footprint is not eligible for protection under the tree bylaw. As a matter of fact, once you have dug a 15 foot excavation for a full storey below ground, every tree on the lot becomes “unsafe” because they are too close to the shored excavation. Down they come. Even if they are on a neighbours lot, once deemed unsafe because of the excavation……down they come. All of our local city mayors and councillors should hang their heads in shame at the irreversible changes they have made to accommodate developers and their campaign contributions.

      Like

  4. John's Aghast

    So much for the Health Care Facility! Not to worry, we don’t have enough funds to operate one.
    (Should read Norm’s article on Moody’s reports).
    Whatever happened to the Nesting Birds Protection bylaw. No clearing to be undertaken during nesting season. I pity you poor City folk!

    Like

  5. Linda Stromberg

    I echo John’s concern over the nesting birds. That I have been told by the City of Surrey is a Provincial issue/regulation. I drove by today and was dismayed at the destruction. Hope to see this developer held accountable with some significant penalties. Wish we had a “Developer Watchdog” to help apply pressure for accountability

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Laila

      The province protects birds nests at anytime of the year according to this,and there were plenty of nests in this area according to local dog walkers- the trick would be to find them in the massive mounds of debris that are currently sitting there. http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/lower-mainland/wildlife/management/wildlife_management.htm

      Yes, I agree we do need a developer watchdog. And we need faster and easier communication with the tree department,and permits in cases like this where there are no signs,and questionable clearing with trees being taken down. It may end up being within the law when it is all said and done- and that is the greater travesty. That policy could and may allow this kind of extensive clearing without regard for the community in a project this big.

      Lets be clear, this was not just underbrush and blackberry brambles, there are piles of logs and trees, and there are standing trees that are damaged with branches knocked and torn off.

      The neighbourhood feels disrespected. Everyone I have spoken with along this area is very upset.

      Like

  6. nonconfidencevote

    Well,
    It would be interesting to see if this developer contributed to someone’s election campaign.
    No permits?
    Fine them.
    And make the fine 50% of the value of the sale. ie $20,000,000.00 sale = $10,000,000.00 fine
    Or
    Do like Finland does for speeders and base the fine on the owners previous years income declared on their taxes.
    The owner of Nokia paid over $100,000.00 for speeding based on his income.

    http://www.google.ca/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&frm=1&source=web&cd=2&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0CCAQFjAB&url=http%3A%2F%2Fnews.bbc.co.uk%2F2%2Fhi%2Feurope%2F1759791.stm&ei=GHEcVfShDJDxoASBuYKACg&usg=AFQjCNHh1bHv9WhGZ0gvvIaK54rQFEOTdA

    Make developers sit up and take notice. We have to obey the rules…….why dont they?

    Like

    1. Laila

      Great idea. I’m all for it. But the issue is how to prevent this kind of activity in the first place.

      City staff said to me via phone that the developer was allegedly supposed to be ‘grubbing’ underbrush and small stuff only, and no equipment was supposed to be on the property.No trees were supposed to be coming down.

      This is a bit more than just grubbing.

      Like

    1. Laila

      It’s all in the story above, including the links. BC Govt sold it make the budget ‘ balance’ . Fairborne bought it – Fairborne flipped it to Redekop Development as per the screen shot from their company site above.

      Like

  7. Mosko

    This is business as usual in Surrey thanks to Surrey First, and the ignorant voters who put them back in with a sweep. Developers know big donations get them a free pass on rules the rest of us have to follow.

    I need to buy a permit to cut a small cottonwood or alder, but these guys regularly nuke entire sites, as above, taking trees two feet across. The approach is to do whatever they want and then pay a token fine and go on their merry way.

    Like

    1. Laila

      The biggest trees on the property are intact,but I’m honestly not sure if that would have been the case if the city didn’t arrive when they did.Some are damaged.There are tree’s of varying sizes in all the piles from small inconsequential ones to fairly large ones. But that such a large area was cleared,so fast…

      There is a very large cut area over by the Newton library now too where the city is going to make detention ponds.

      They seem to be ignoring their own tree canopy report with wanton disregard. Residents must be vigilant and when in doubt, call it in.

      I’m waiting to hear the developers side of this.

      Like

  8. Curt

    Waiting to see what’s going to happen along 176 from about 32 ave to the border pretty well. All the development signs going up, for sale signs up, some clearing happening. Just waiting for the previous Mayor Watt’s property to go. Nice to pull your property into a development zone eh Dianne! But no infrastructure, i.e. bus, schools, healthcare (the ones we have are already overcrowded and understaffed. (And they want a Yes on their vote?) Yeah, city hall only helps developers and those who fill their and their friends pockets.
    Have you noticed too, the “mega single family” dwellings. Now how does one get away with that! It just pizzes me off when some little guy just wants a shed in their yard and is hassled and yet these GD developers and the yahoos over at the city do as they please. Hepner is absolutely useless. Laila we all need to start taking pictures of things we see going on in the neighborhood which we know are not right and publicizing them on facebook or somewhere else. Let’s call it open season on those who abuse and break the laws of the land.

    Like

    1. Laila

      I know the community association down there is very involved and engaged and I am confidant they are on top of everything in that area. But you are correct, that entire bluff I believe is slated for build out over the next decade or so. And yes, no schools, no infrastructure.

      This is also part of the bigger discussion. The viability of building out in the middle of nowhere and then expecting the province is going to miraculously come up with funding for infrastructure under their control is a bit backwards. We need to pace the development, not steam full board ahead without regards to impact on local schools, medical facilities etc. It makes for stressed communities where one has to travel long distances to get basic needs met.

      I strongly encourage any resident to document something that you are concerned about and yes, make the call to confirm with city staff permits are in order etc. If protected trees are being cut, there needs to be a visible permit posted, along with other requirements I posted above.

      City staff can only do so much at the hall- they can only enforce when reports are made to advise them, it simply would be too difficult to randomly check all the different sites at any given time.

      Like

    1. Laila

      No thanks needed-my greatest hope is that residents all over the city understand how important it is to be aware and engaged, and never assume just because something is going on that 1) it is allowed 2) that its ok to ask questions and make phone calls to confirm this is acceptable.

      Better safe than sorry. Once the trees are gone, they are gone for good, right?

      In this case I made calls earlier in the week to no response and so did other residents I spoke with. I’ll hopefully speak with the city again today to find out where this stands.

      This is what developers must acknowledge when considering building on a site with trees. http://www.surrey.ca/files/CONSIDERATIONS_FOR_BUILDING_ON_A_SITE_WITH_TREES.pdf

      These are the items developers must satisfy. http://www.surrey.ca/community/16198.aspx

      The tree department can be reached at 604-591-4675 and if there has been no development signs erected or rezoning signs ( large green signs you NEED to read!) and trees are being cut of any size, it is worth a check. Any tree with a diameter of 30 centimetres at chest height is automatically protected as are certain species of trees at any size,

      The bigger picture however is still that large areas of tree could be cleared that are still large, perhaps an inch less than a protected tree, in an entire forest. That is where we are losing our tree canopy and you can notice it in Sullivan, Panorama, Clayton etc.

      Take a look at Ocean Park, Crescent Beach and other areas that are older, and there is significantly more tree canopy and it is what makes those areas so coveted.

      We need to be thinking in a forward,progressive development manner. Livability isn’t just about having a home, it;s about living in communities that we can also enjoy and be proud of.

      Like

  9. Em

    This city is crap.
    I work by here and I was so pissed when I saw this. Just everywhere in Surrey, just cut down every tree they can. This is one of the most mangled I’ve seen.

    What is it now, city of Surrey, city of poorly built houses and no trees.

    Like

    1. Laila

      I agree, very mangled manner. The operator was ripping trees off, snapping them off and it’s visible in the pics below. It looks like a tornado went through in some parts.

      I’ll update when I hear anything and likewise, if anyone gets an update before I do, please post and share! I’m waiting to see if the developer has comment on this and will post if a response is received or not.

      Like

  10. Mike

    My sense of fair play and courtesy is being squashed by this repeated type of behavior throughout the City of Surrey.
    City professional staff are once again placed in the predicament of looking guilty when in fact they are victims also.
    When politicians “green light” any development agenda, like this Mayor and Council have done, this happens.
    The big Opps! is no Opps at all. Good on your friends, neighbors and readers to push back.
    Don’t allow yourself to be shouted down.
    The ex Mayor actually started to repair the horrible image the City had. Unfortunately, the current Mayor has restored our rightful place as the “butt of all jokes” throughout the lower mainland.

    Like

  11. e.a.f.

    this is standard practise. clear cut the land and then wait to see if there is any fall out. Usually it is done on a long weekend, when no one in authority can interfere. if it went on during the week in Surrey, I would conclude city hall knew what was going on, but it had their “blessing”.

    In the Comox Valley, the late Stan Hagen, M.L.A. offered to sell Crown Isle, government land, which the community thought was their park, for $350K. the community became aware, protested, it went to sealed bid.

    The community offered $600K and change to be used as park land. Crown Isle offered A million and change. It sat there for some time and then one week end the logging equipment moved in and did its thing. It looks like a moon scape. there were the head waters of a fish bearing stream. None of it mattered, it was all legal.

    It has become the standard for buying government land and clear cutting. the price obtained for selling off the logs can almost cover the price of the land. Some trees go for a thousand a piece. the landowner may have recovered much of his initial costs.

    I’d suggest this was a “game” in process well before the public had any thought to what was going on. If some one where to check who purchased the land, you might see a B.C. Liberal donor, member, friend, etc.

    The people of Surrey are to blame for this as much as the old and new mayor. The people of Surrey voted for these politicians. You “green lighted” what happened. Not every one was happy with land usage with Watts, this is no different.

    The selling of provincial land “to balance the budget” is just another way of saying transferring valuable land assets belonging to the citizens of the province, into the hands of developers who want to make money out of it.

    It has little or nothing to do with “balancing the budget”. The then MLA, Stan Hagen was willing to sell it to Crown isle for $350K. In the end due to public involvement Crown Isle had to pay a million and change. The Comox Valley land had rare plants, home to eagles, deer, other animals. Was used as a corridor for bears, etc. People had always used the land as a park. now it sits clear cut by the biggest developer in the area, looking like a moon scape. If people are concerned about government owned land in their area, start working now to ensure you keep it as public land. the province will sell it when ever they want to whomever they want. Remember there are 35 million Millionaires in China and they all would like a piece of Canada at a nice low price.

    It is entertaining to note Campbell sold more than the Comox Valley land but it was before he made his “great?” announcement he wanted to “settle” First Nations land claims. It does make you wonder why a Premier would sell really nice land, which could be used in a settlement to a golfing company, prior to settling with land. some say Campbell sold off some nice land before sitting down with First Nations to settle land claims. Makes you wonder.

    The land which is the subject of this article ought to have been kept as public land for future use by the public. Today is not the only time citizens will live in Surrey. Give it another 50 years and the number will have doubled. By that time politicians will be cursing today’s politicians for selling off the best and most valuable. But hey, we all voted for these politicians and by now we certainly can’t say we don’t know what they will do.

    It might be fun if a group of citizens sued the government for selling the land. Well it wasn’t exactly in the best interests of the citizens. and if the sale can be linked to “friends” of those in office, well that is a whole other ball game. It would be interesting to know if these developers have granted use of any of their assets to any of the politicians involved in the sale, you know, the hockey tickets, the condo in Maui, good deal on a car, etc. The Hells Angels aren’t the only crooks in Surrey, rest assured.

    Like

  12. Debbie H

    Unbelieveable! Despite the developers protestations, he must have rubbed his hands together with glee when he got that clean up order. There is a big difference between Clean up and level the entire site. Now he can hide behind the City for the destruction of the trees and wildlife habitat. Sad…

    Like

    1. Laila

      Well it’s interesting for sure. There has been zero activity on that property-getting an order to clean up the property was the opening for all of this to occur.

      I agree with your point and asked him that very question- to me there is a significant different between cleaning up a property and what happened here. But again, as I said in my post above, this is a failure of policy. The Tree Bylaw so highly lauded is seriously ineffective when it allowes trees that are still quite tall and large to be cut simply because they are just under the mandated size to save.

      Mistakes were made,absolutely. The developer needed to have the tree department involved and they weren’t, it was bylaws that was behind this cleanup order. Talking to some locals,no one expected this was the clean up that would ever occur.

      And big questions remain as to the communication between the developer and the city if it isn’t completely clear what the expectations are. The tree department was very clear by phone that no equipment was to be on site,that only brush and small trees to be cleaned out.

      Residents really need to start asking the city Councillors about how effective this tree retention bylaw really is,when its allowable to clear entire forests in this manner.

      Like

  13. Jean

    With Linda Hepner-Watts in charge we’ll soon run out of oxygen. I think this one is even dumber than the one before.

    Slate voters don’t have a clue what they’re doing and just vote the same old same old in again and again while still complaining about how Surrey is so badly managed. All corporate donations should not legally be accepted by anyone running for office, All elections are bought, not ‘won’.
    These same voters will also vote for Harper-Watts in the fed election because the corrupt corporate mainstream ‘media’ tells them to. The end of Canada is nearly complete.

    Like

  14. luigi

    Hi Laila. I know this is off topic but thought it important. Not sure whether you had heard or not but thought I would pass along word that Ben Meisner passed away in Winnipeg in the early hours of this morning, Apr 2/15. He was notified of a situation involving cancer while on an ice fishing holiday and died six days later.
    No arrangements for his funeral have been announced yet.

    Like

    1. Laila

      I do indeed Luigi.Actually found out via twitter yesterday morning which was a bit of a shock.It’s sad he never made it home before he passed but I’m happy he was with family.Doing a bit of a post on this. Thank you for thinking of me.

      Like

  15. e.a.f.

    had a good laugh at Dhillion’s “explanation”. If he thinks any of us are buying into it, he can think again. Dhillion isn’t concerned about what he is doing or how the community feels. He is only concerned about the money he can make. Just wonder what his relationship is with Ms. I’m on a trade mission and her political friends.

    Like

  16. Cindy Z

    The utter destruction of the Panorama area to build more town homes while slowly destroying the ecosystems is failure. A pure and simple act of greed. We do not have the infrastructures in place to meet the ongoing development.

    Like

    1. Laila

      I’ve seen that and have been in contact with Jess at the developers office- he said they were supposed to be out chipping and removing it- all neighbours are greatly concerned at the risk of fire on this lot. I would suggest more phone calls from neighbours might push this along before a disaster happens.

      Like

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