It took awhile for the subject of Cloverdale to come up at last week’s Surrey civic election forum at Shannon Hall, but once it did, the historic town centre remained a hot topic.
Organized by the Cloverdale Community Association, the Cloverdale BIA, and the Cloverdale Chamber of Commerce, the Oct. 22 all candidate’s meeting drew a nearly full house to the hall, located on the city-owned fairgrounds, another subject that dominated the event.
Six of seven mayor candidates (independent Vikram Bajwa was absent) turned out for the meeting – the first of its kind organized by the three groups.
A majority of council candidates also turned out for the event, attracting 26 of the 35 candidates who have put their names forward on the ballot on Nov. 15.
Mayoral candidates were allowed a three-minute opening statement; council hopefuls had two minutes to state their case.
After that, the forum was opened up to questions, guided by moderator Gary Hollick, who directed questions first to either mayor or council candidates, then to candidates at his discretion, a format that also permitted candidates to make rebuttals.
Off the top, all six mayor candidates in attendance said they’d support building phase two of the Surrey Museum.
Surrey First’s Linda Hepner said phase two is one of the top priorities in the Build Surrey capital projects plan, and Grant Rice, who’s running as an independent, said support is needed for Surrey’s environmental heritage as well.
“There’s just too much clear cutting going on in this city,” Rice said.
Both One Surrey’s Barinder Rasode and Safe Surrey Coalition’s Doug McCallum pledged their full support, with McCallum saying he’s proud of the work done by the Friends of the Surrey Museum and Archives Society.
Council candidates were asked how they’d address issues of rapid growth and development in the Clayton Heights area.
“We have to start enforcing our bylaws,” Maz Artang of One Surrey said. “The density issue has been with us for a number of years.”
Team Surrey’s Stephen Gammer threw down the gauntlet, invoking Mayor Dianne Watts’ description of the area as an “unmitigated disaster.”
“It’s the plan,” he said. “We need to start with a plan. At Surrey, there are only two social planners, whereas in Vancouver there are 20 social planners.”
“That ‘disaster’ belonged to the previous mayor, and it was left to the Surrey First team to deal with,” SF candidate Vera LeFranc said, adding she toured the area a few weeks ago, adding the city’s R10 designation allows six cars to park on a lot.
Hepner rebutted, admitting, “I agreed with Mayor Watts’ comments that it was a miserable failure,” she said, before describing steps the city has since taken to deal with problems there.
“We eliminated coach houses. Secondly, we eliminated that zone that it was created under,” she said, pointing to the new RF10 zoning in place, expanded roadways and other measures.
She agreed that coach houses and illegal suites were a problem.
“It would be simple if we could send a bylaw officer over there and say, ‘Everybody out.’ However, we have young families in there,” she said, adding mortgages in some cases were negotiated with secondary suites in mind.
“We must come up with a viable transition plan.”
Candidates were also asked about the future of the Cloverdale Fairgrounds.
Rasode said One Surrey has pledged to create an economic and sporting hub in Cloverdale by redeveloping the Cloverdale Fairgrounds.
The plan calls for a trade centre built in partnership, a sport facility and new transit connections. Although both would be built in partnership with private companies, part of the funds to pay for the redevelopment would come from the sale of city-owned lands on the fairgrounds.
“That’s our commitment,” she said. “Now is Cloverdale’s time.”
McCallum said Surrey First’s plan supports a trade centre with a major hotel to host large conventions.
“I think the fairgrounds are long overdue,” McCallum said. “I think you have been forgotten in the last little while. It’s time to change that.”
Wolanski wants to see a new ice rink and indoor pool included in any future development on the Cloverdale Fairgrounds.
Hepner said the city has tried to court private developers to partner with on the site, but the last proposal would have cost Surrey $40 million over 10 years to make a reality.
She doesn’t support selling parcels off to help pay for a new plan, and pointed to a city task force that is studying the issue. “We need to do a long term plan,” she said.
“I think we need a convention centre not just a trade centre,” independent mayor candidate John Edwards said.
One Surrey candidate Mike Bose, a minor hockey coach and Cloverdale farmer, said the original Cloverdale ice arena plan called for two sheets of ice.
“We’ve been left behind since 1971,” he said.
Incumbent SF Coun. Barbara Steele said, “It’s certainly not a forgotten item at the council table,” while SF Coun. Bruce Hayne pointed to One Surrey’s plan and said, “We can’t mortgage our future like that.”
Crime and policing, along with transit, were also addressed at the forum, where, as the evening progressed, one theme stood out – that Cloverdale is due for more attention from Surrey’s mayor and council, a feeling summed up by One Surrey council candidate Brian Young, who in his opening statement said:
“The most recent transit plan highlighted Langley,” he said. “The Surrey First transit plan showed City Centre to Langley, it didn’t even mention Cloverdale, and that seems to be a constant trend. Cloverdale gets left behind.”