A community group against the supportive housing project believes the discovery of this deed, dated 1908, may halt development. The deed states that Joseph Shannon was selling his property to the city with the understanding that it would never be used for any purposes other than as a public park, or recreation ground. (Samantha Anderson)

Supportive housing opponent says 110-year-old document should prevent development

Proposed site for Cloverdale project is on land gifted to city by Joseph Shannon in 1908

A Cloverdale resident opposed to the supportive housing project proposed for the downtown business core has discovered a 110-year-old document that she believes should prevent any development from proceeding.

BC Housing has proposed four city lots at 5829, 5819 and 5811 176A Street and 17635 58 Avenue be combined into two lots, for the purpose of building a 60-unit, four-storey supportive housing facility.

A portion of the land at the corner of 58 Avenue and 176A Street was sold to the City of Surrey in 1908 by a member of one of Cloverdale’s founding families, Joseph Shannon. The land was given to the city for $55, equivalent to about $1,250 today.

The deed specifies that the land “shall not for all time” be used for “any purposes other than for the recreation and enjoyment of the public as a public park, recreation ground, or ground for athletic sports and shall ensure that the said land shall be used only for such purposes.”

'The present library site was dedicated for the use of the public by Joe Shannon when he laid out Cloverdale townsite.' The Surrey Leader, August 18, 1960.
‘The present library site was dedicated for the use of the public by Joe Shannon when he laid out Cloverdale townsite.’ The Surrey Leader, August 18, 1960.

The Surrey Leader, August 18, 1960.

“Should city hall be allowed to overturn a legacy gift?” asked Shannon Netzel, the Cloverdale resident who came across the deed after doing research at the City of Surrey Archives.

“There is a covenant that runs with the land. This is a legacy property. It is unique. If the city overturned this legal agreement with Joseph Shannon, who is to stop them from overturning all legacy gifts?”

Although that land is now being used for recreation purposes, the building that would become the present day Cloverdale Mini Rec Centre was built as Cloverdale’s library in 1956. An August 1960 article in the Surrey Leader described it as “one of the finer buildings in the town” and stated the “site was dedicated for the use of the public by Joe Shannon when he laid out Cloverdale townsite.”

Joseph Shannon came to Surrey in 1874 and purchased a large tract of land from the crown in the newly named Clover Valley district. In Land of the Peace Arch, author John Pearson writes that Shannon later “became one of the great benefactors in the development of the new settlement and freely donated land to a number of developments and organizations.”

Joseph retired from Cloverdale in 1908, the year he transferred the property at 58 Avenue and 176A Street to the municipality. He moved to Laidlaw, just west of Hope, where he lived until 1923 when he passed away at the age of 75.

'Uncle' Joseph Shannon pictured in a Surrey Leader article, July 13, 1964.
‘Uncle’ Joseph Shannon pictured in a Surrey Leader article, July 13, 1964.

Surrey Leader, July 13, 1964.

The other building currently on the proposed development site, located at 5811 176A Street, was marked as a “heritage opportunity” following a 2015 inventory of downtown Cloverdale, and a report to city staff recommended that the house be studied.

It was built in 1938 by the O’Brien family, who are considered one of Cloverdale’s early families by the Surrey Historical Society. Known fondly as the “Royal O’Briens,” they arrived to the town centre in the late 1920s and set up an automotive garage known as “O’Brien’s Super Service.”

Both the Cloverdale Mini Rec Centre and the O’Brien house would be demolished as part of the proposed development.

“City hall does not have the public’s interest [in mind]. It is up to citizens to hold them to task,” said Netzel. She said she has forwarded a photocopy of the 1908 deed to city staff.

There will be an open house on the supportive housing project hosted on Thursday, Sept. 20, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Pacific Community Church (5337 180 Street).


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