British Columbia

Controversial housing development has Surrey's approval, now needs the region's

After three years of debate over a controversial housing development in south Surrey, the fate of the proposal will now be decided by Metro Vancouver’s board of directors.

Developers want to build 145 homes near Hazelmere golf course in south Surrey

An artist's drawing of the proposal shows farming and the Hazelmere golf course in front of 145 new homes. (MVRD Board)

After three years of debate over a controversial housing development in south Surrey, the fate of the proposal will now be decided by Metro Vancouver's board of directors.

Critics say the 145 unit project at Hazelmere golf course is the textbook definition of urban sprawl — an entirely car-dependent community that sits well outside of the region's urban containment boundary.

Proponents say the proposal gives the region a rare opportunity put new land in the Agricultural Land Reserve, add environmental protections to the salmon-bearing Little Campbell River and provide new opportunities for the Semiahmoo First Nation.

No date has been set, but Metro Vancouver's board has indicated it will hold a public hearing on the issue before making a final decision.

Surrey's city council gave a green light to the project last year but Metro Vancouver staff now recommend scrapping it.

"The proposed amendment challenges the most fundamental elements of Metro 2040 – containing urban sprawl, focusing urban growth to support complete communities, and efficient transportation and infrastructure investments," it reads in the staff report.

The pros

Supporters of the project point to the positive impacts it will have on the community, particularly when it comes to land enhancement.

About 1.5 hectares of land will be contributed to the ALR, new wetlands will be created and improved drainage should help improve the health of the nearby Little Campbell River.

This has gone through an extensive and intensive process of reviews.- Don Luymes, Surrey's manager of community planning

Young farmers will be given opportunities to use the land as part of the Young Agrarians program.

"It's an opportunity for them to be able to establish themselves and put themselves in economic positions where they can hopefully buy farmland and establish careers," said Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner.

"With all due respect, we have many long in the tooth farmers, not unlike politicians."

Hazelmere Golf and Tennis Club says the development will help protect jobs.

"This has gone through an extensive and intensive process of reviews," said Surrey's manager of community planning Don Luymes.

"Over a period of about three years, we worked with the applicant to refine it."

The cons

Critics fear that allowing construction in an area that isn't designated for residential development open the floodgates for real estate speculation on rural land.

"When you have a council that puts something forward and says we're considering moving the urban containment boundary, it perks the ears of the people waiting in the wings, wanting to make a profit," said Sarah Rush, a registered dietitian who chairs the group Friends of Hazelmere-Campbell Valley.

'I can tell you, the people who will be purchasing these properties are car dependent people anyway.' - Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner

"They want to buy land relatively cheaply, get it rezoned and then cash in."

Rush says it also doesn't make sense to add 450 residents to an area that is not walking distance from transit, shopping or other amenities.

Hepner says she isn't concerned the homes will be an example of urban sprawl.

"I can tell you, the people who will be purchasing these properties are car dependent people anyway," Hepner said.

"It is not like they're going to jump on the bus to go anywhere."

First Nation support

The Semiahmoo First Nation came on board as a partner in the project about a year ago.

In addition to benefiting financially from the proposal, Chief Harley Chappell says the agreement also allows members to finally have a say in a land issue that directly affects them.

"Having a landowner come to us requesting our partnership in this project is a true step toward economic reconciliation," he said.

"We have watched south Surrey and White Rock grow and develop around us with little or no involvement or inclusion of the neighbouring First Nation. Maybe this is a step in a direction to change some of that, which is good."

Chappell is also deeply concerned about the health of the Little Campbell River, which flows into Semiahmoo Bay.

Harvesting shellfish from the bay has been banned for decades because of pollution.

"This is a prime example of how good development can happen close to a waterway," he said.