Checking in with Cloverdale residents

Cloverdale residents find common ground with city officials at town hall meeting.

Rapid residential growth, illegal suites, cramped schools, hospitals and inadequate transit were just some of the concerns Cloverdale residents brought up at last week’s Town Hall meeting with city officials.

The Cloverdale Recreation Centre was the at the first of six Town Hall meetings hosted by the city in each of the town centres in an attempt to engage residents as part of ongoing consultations about the future of Surrey.

City councillors Barinder Rasode and Marvin Hunt joined city staff from Surrey’s planning and engineering departments at the meeting, answering questions and listening to concerns – something that appears to have helped smooth over at least some concerns of those residents who attended.

Local Linda Stromberg was pleased to hear the city is still hoping to move ahead with several long-term projects for Cloverdale.

One, a new trade show facility at the Cloverdale Fairgrounds that could double as a rodeo venue, would free up the Stetson Bowl for use as a sport stadium.

She was also buoyed by news that a pool would likely be part of a staged expansion of the Cloverdale Recreation Centre – something that wouldn’t happen for another decade.

“In speaking with several people afterwards, they said they were glad that they had come and were leaving with a better understanding,” she added.

She’d like to see renewed interest among residents in the Cloverdale Community Association – something member Ken Krasnikoff echoed following the meeting.

“We have a local BIA and Chamber of Commerce in Cloverdale that provide two-way communication with the city for the business community but at the moment don’t have a similar group for residents,” Stromberg added.

Blogger and urban issues advocate Paul Hillsdon also thought the Cloverdale session was valuable.

“The priorities were quite clear,” he said. “Cloverdale is dealing with growing pains. Lack of transit, lack of parks, overcrowding in schools, and illegal suites are all essentially rooted in growth.”

Hillsdon said city officials made it clear they’re doing all they can to advocate for improvements, but their partners in senior levels of government aren’t budging.

Crime was one area that wasn’t brought up as a priority – something he believes demonstrates the benefits of a community working together to address issues, and a model for how to proceed on other issues.

“I think if we hold town hall meetings, people will have a greater opportunity to discuss these issues, form connections, and improve Cloverdale,” he said.

Rapid residential growth was another hot topic. The latest Census figures show Clayton is booming. It’s home to 14,034 people – more than three times the 2006 count of 4,132 residents, boosting fears that Cloverdale’s needs are in danger of being eclipsed by its fast-growing neighbour to the north.

Cloverdale grew more modestly, but overall Surrey is the fastest-growing city in Metro Vancouver, with a population of nearly 470,000.

The Cloverdale Business Improvement Association and the Cloverdale District Chamber of Commerce went on record opposing any future Translink expansion of rapid transit that bypasses Cloverdale en route through Clayton to Langley.

The current option bypasses the fairgrounds, the recreation centre, and Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s Cloverdale campus.

“You’re bypassing areas of high destination and you’re going down through a suburb which then connects to a large retail trade area,” Paul Orazietti, executive director of the Cloverdale BIA, said. “It didn’t make any sense whatsoever.”

The next town hall meeting is in Guildford Wednesday, April 18 at the Surrey RCMP’s District 2 office, followed by Monday, April 30 in North Surrey at City Centre Library. The sessions wrap up May 7 in Fleetwood at the Surrey Sport and Leisure Complex.

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