A large contingent of people standing up for Surrey students is readying for battle, as the city prepares to consider a controversial development for south Newton that critics say will further overwhelm already-crowded schools in the area.
On Monday, Surrey council sent a large development to public hearing, set for June 27.
The development, slated for 5750 Panorama (just northwest of Highway 10 and 152 Street), is the proposed location of 181 townhomes and 106 apartments, as well as commercial developments.
But area residents are fed up with the unabated pace of development and say area elementary and secondary schools are over-capacity.
More than 100 people packed an information session about the project at the Tong Louie Family YMCA in May, with the vast majority voicing opposition to the project.
Cindy Dalglish, who runs the website southnewtoncommunity.com, told The Leader Wednesday she anticipates there will be at least as many people at the June 27 public hearing as there were at the May information session.
“We’ll be there, hopefully in droves,” Dalglish said. “We’re going to go door-to-door (in advance), explaining the situation. We’re doing a social media push and a media advisory as well.”
She also noted the Surrey Teachers’ Association will be sending out notices to its membership asking them to attend the meeting.
“I hope that people come and explain that we’re just not ready for something that size,” Dalglish said.
It’s also expected that the 350-member Panorama Neighbourhood Association (PNA) will attend.
PNA Vice-President Steve Henderson said at the information meeting most of his members oppose the development.
“The neighbourhood association supports the school board to temporarily postpone development in south Newton, Clayton and Grandview,” Henderson said.
He believes without new schools in the works to specifically support the new housing, the group will not stand by quietly and allow the development to forge ahead.
Developer James Redekop, of Redekop Homes, said in May he understands the concerns of the community.
He said the idea is to phase in the townhome development over four years, so the province can prepare for the incoming students by building new schools.
On April 21, the Surrey Board of Education voted unanimously in favour of a motion asking the City of Surrey to “temporarily suspend all new development approvals in the Clayton, Grandview/South Surrey and Newton regions until the Surrey School District receives adequate provincial funding to support the growing numbers of students moving into these regions.”
Trustee Laurae McNally noted that Surrey is the province’s biggest school district and the overflow from currently crowded schools could easily fill 30 new schools right now.
Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner said the city is drafting a school capital construction plan for the province to address the problem before it gets worse (see story page 7).
Dalglish said Wednesday that more pressure on schools isn’t the only problem with the proposed development.
Area residents are also concerned about the impact on roads that are already jammed to the point of gridlock during rush hour.
Parking is also an issue, she said.
“But the school issue is just not going to go away,” Dalglish noted. “It’s not going to go away in the near future until we get more schools built.”
She said she commends Hepner on forwarding a construction plan to the province, but notes that won’t do anything for south Newton for some time.
In May, the province announced funding for new schools in Surrey and additions to existing facilities in south Newton.
Dalglish said the announcement was welcome, but it doesn’t address future growth.
“Right now, those additions that we’re getting are kind of for the backlog,” Dalglish said. “An addition is great, but what we need is a whole new building.”
The public hearing for the Sullivan development is at Surrey City Hall, 13450 104 Ave., on Monday, June 27 at 7 p.m.