Senior staff at Metro Vancouver say there is “no substantial rationale or demonstrated need” to expand urban development into the Hazelmere Valley.
In a report that was presented to Metro’s regional planning committee, and supported earlier this month, senior regional planner Terry Hoff recommends that the MV board ask the City of Surrey to consider an “alternate amendment” with regard to land-use designations for the South Campbell Heights area.
“Staff do not recommend the proposed extension of the (Urban Containment Boundary) and conversion of Rural lands to allow General Urban development south beyond 16 Avenue,” Hoff concludes.
The Metro board is scheduled to consider the resolution at its May 25 meeting.
The city had asked in January to amend the regional growth strategy (Metro 2040) – including extending the urban containment boundary by 235 hectares – in order to accommodate the “Stage 1 South Campbell Heights Land Use Plan” that was endorsed by Surrey council last July.
The area subject to the proposed amendment – south of 16 Avenue near 192 Street, abutting the Township of Langley – is currently designated rural in Metro 2040, and identified as a Special Study Area. (The tag typically applies to locations where a municipality, prior to adoption of the RGS, has “expressed an intention to alter the existing land use… but where more planning work for the area needed to be undertaken,” Hoff’s report notes.)
The city’s official community plan also designates South Campbell Heights as a Special Study Area.
A planning process for the area began in 2014 but became the subject of controversy in September 2015 after a proposal to build a truck park on 77 acres adjacent to the fish-rich Little Campbell River was made public. Proponents later withdrew the request, and became involved – along with other stakeholders including representatives of Semiahmoo Fish & Game Club and Friends of Hazelmere Campbell Valley – in the Local Area Planning exercise.
According to the city’s application to Metro for the RGS changes, Surrey gave third reading to the South Campbell Heights Local Area Plan official community plan amendments last November.
The city then asked Metro to amend the RGS to extend the urban containment boundary, remove the Special Study Area and amend land-use designations to mixed employment, conservation/recreation, general urban and agricultural from rural and mixed employment.
Hoff notes elements of Surrey’s proposed amendment were “generally consistent with Metro 2040 provisions” – for example, the conservation/recreation designation change would protect 14 hectares of forest south of 16 Avenue that was identified in a consultant’s report as a ‘critical biodiversity region’ “and serve to further buffer the Little Campbell River riparian corridor.”
However, redesignating 143 hectares of land to general urban from rural “would be inconsistent with the provisions of Metro 2040,” he writes.
“Surrey has been a regional leader in creating comprehensively planned complete urban neighbourhoods. The proposed amendment would be a significant departure from what has been the City’s established practice and may trigger similar isolated urban residential development pressures in the proximate Rural and Agricultural areas in this area, and in the adjacent Township of Langley.”
Hoff suggests Surrey consider altering the request to extend the UCB and general urban designation south to 16 Avenue.
Surrey needs Metro support to make a final decision on its OCP amendment bylaw.
Semiahmoo Fish & Game Club president Bob Donnelly – who had asked that Metro either reject the application or return it to the city “for further consideration including meetings with the community with the aim of protecting the Little Campbell River” – described the committee’s May 4 recommendation as “good news.”
“Hopefully, after a seven-year campaign to protect the river and the associated forests, the community may be closer to a resolution,” Donnelly told Peace Arch News Friday.
In a follow-up email to PAN Wednesday, Donnelly acknowledged concerns remain.
“While it is inconceivable that the board would overrule the unanimous recommendation of the Regional Planning Committee, there has always been strong support within council to push development into the Hazelmere Valley south of 16th Avenue.”
Visit us at peacearchnews.com