Its amazing what a difference a few weeks and a lack of press coverage makes when it comes to making hard decisions that will permanently impact an entire neighbourhood in Surrey.
Just weeks ago, parents and residents in West Panorama/Sullivan were celebrating a short lived victory after council voted to send a contentious proposal to build 181-townhomes and 106-apartments development at 5750 Panorama Drive in South Newton, back to the planning department. http://www.peacearchnews.com/news/384740151.html?mobile=true
At the heart of the issue is the continuing lack of space in local schools, combined with the never ending amendments to both the official community plan and neighbourhood concept plans, that result in more townhomes being built than those same schools can handle.
And it clearly, never stops, despite the fact that there is no new land for a new highschool either. Fields needed for fitness and games, are being eaten up by portables. The city continues to point the finger at the province and refuses to acknowledge their lack of foresight in planning.
Last night, that lack of foresight and continued preference to rampant development was displayed again as council put a motion on the table to approve the development in the middle of summer when most people who were opposed, were on vacation,taking care of kids out of school or otherwise occupied.
There was no direct notice to the hundreds of neighbours impacted that this was going to occur and local resident Cindy Dalglish did not receive advance notice either. In fact several emails to the planning department and a councillor, left questions unanswered repeatedly.
Cindy was stunned last night, stunned that after council represented to the attending public big concerns for where the kids will go to school from this development ( keep in mind there are hundreds more units planned for this area as we speak) they would pass it just weeks later in such a stealthy manner. And other residents felt the same way. One I know called their realtor this morning to list, knowing school is going to be an overcrowded nightmare here for years – even the local highschool is vastly overcrowded as well.
And sadly, this isn’t anything new for Surrey. Put on a big show of concern to keep the subjects happy and quiet, then ram the thing through during summer. How anyone on that council can hold their head high after this is beyond me. Does it really even bother you anymore? That you are elected to represent not just the best interests of the city, but the best interests of each community within it? And this is how you do that?
Now, this move bodes ill for the MLA in this riding, Marvin Hunt for two reasons.
He was both the MLA and a sitting Surrey councillor when the government put this ‘surplus’ property up for sale. He said and did nothing to stand up for this riding, nor did he oppose the sale. On this deal, he was in a clear conflict between his duties as a councillor and his governments actions as an MLA. He even went to say it wasn’t a city issue, but a school district issue ( yes Marvin, pass that buck and point the finger again).This is a Liberal riding. And the Liberal voters here, parents, grandparents etc, are really upset. They are not impressed with his silence. They know his record. And his governments record of playing games with education funding.
( I expect to see more dollars tossed to this riding to try and troll some votes)
Surrey council has effectively lost thousands of votes in this high density area as well, and will continue to lose more with every development approved knowing full well there is no land for a school either. In fact the Panorama property was one of the last big blocks left. Great location for a high school in fact and not one member of council spoke out and advocated for this land when it was put up for sale, nor did anyone on the school district.
At some point, the fingers need to stop pointing at anyone but themselves. The community plans have been altered so badly, it’s simply created high density without vital infrastructure. Already talks of how badly a new hospital annex or health care facility is needed here as Surrey and Peace Arch still have patients in hallways.
Why do I refer to Surrey as an oligarchy? Because the definition of the words fits so damn well: “oligarchy: small group of people having control of a country, organization, or institution.”
With every seat on council occupied by Surrey First, a single slate where members are selected to run in a process that is interesting to say the least. Even the two councillors many Surrey-ites think of as progressive , have at times remained silent just at the times strong voices are needed most. Which makes one wonder exactly how independent this coalition really is…
Just another day in the oligarchy of Surrey, where developers rule the roost and progressive politics are still nothing but a dream. If there is one thing I sincerely hope the good people of Surrey realise, it is that electing a single slate council with not one bit of opposition in place, is a terrible,terrible idea.
*** To my wonderful Surrey peeps. Don’t give up.Don’t lose the faith as much as you feel the cynicism right now seeping through you. Come together and run your own slate in the next election.There are so many quality candidates in South Newton already doing what you would be doing as a councillor,but with vision and thought and progressive ideas.
Be the change you want to see. No matter where I am, I will always be here to share your voice and give it a wider platform. We all appreciate what you do. Share your passion and advocacy with the entire city, and make it the Surrey you know it can be.
***UPDATE: This letter was forwarded to me, and sent to all of council by Cindy Dalglish( mentioned above) who has been a long time advocate for South Newton schools,parents and children. I think it deserves a wider audience.
“To say last night brings disappointment is an understatement. This is a prime example of how this community cannot trust that their voices matter. That they are cared for. That they were heard. You have let down a large number of voting residents that made it clear this proposal does not meet the needs of this community due to lacking infrastructures.
It is clear from the actions and questions/comments last night that you either don’t understand what it is you are responsible for and the magnitude of a development of this size, or that you simply do not care about the children in this community. What is the purpose of your process? This should have been a no-brainer for you to stop in its tracks when you were told time and time again the schools were not there to support the numbers. Sure, there is some flexibility for the elementary school addition but it still doesn’t account for this development, as noted by Emily Watson. But you never once asked about the impact to the remainder of the schools, especially the high school. WE HAVE NO ROOM. The information you were provided, if you actually looked at it, describes quite perfectly there is no room. And I quote from Emily last night “This isn’t the only development, as you are aware, in the South Newton area… enrollment pressures are already there… The remainder of our commentary we have already provided through staff in terms of how over-capacity the schools are and what we are asking for in our capital plan moving forward.” And once again, you ignored the District even after you asked for their input.
Then, what about the congestion at the intersection of Highway 10 and 152nd? When you ask your staff if that has been addressed… they give you a simple “yes, it was addressed.” Somehow that was satisfactory to you? How was it addressed? Do you not ask your staff to provide rationale? How can you be making proper decisions if you don’t have the understanding of what you are speaking to?
I also want to speak to the timing. It’s clear to this community that you did not do due diligence with the motion and used the timing of the year to allow this development to slide through. Literally, you were given all the information you had already been given previously and still did not address the motion. A lot of smoke and mirrors that aren’t going unnoticed by the residents in South Newton. When I asked for clarification as to what would be happening and when, I kept getting non-responses until I finally reached Keith Broersma on the phone yesterday late morning. It was then that I was informed it was going in front of the Council at the Land Use meeting. Where was the communication? My community can’t help but notice that you appeared concerned when media was watching but last night nobody was watching. In my emails to Judy Villeneuve and the City Clerk and Keith Broersma, we asked how we can be part of the process. We did not ever receive a response on this.
Gill, you were quoted as saying in The Now Newspaper June 28th “We’re all on the same page, we all have a common goal and I’m hopeful we can get a resolution that’s going to satisfy everybody in the community.” We, the community, are not satisfied nor are we on the same page. Not even a little bit.
Villeneuve, you were quoted as saying (same paper and date) “… not prepared to support the land use last night with the issues in the community.” Yet, you voted this through without any change? The issues haven’t changed.
I’m stunned at your decision, the actions in the past many weeks, and of the lack of leadership from each of you in allowing this to happen. Any trust we were starting to build with this Council is all but wiped away. I would love to have a better understanding of how you feel you care for the children of our community.