Metro Vancouver directors torn on controversial Hazelmere development in south Surrey

Saturday, February 24th, 2018

Metro directors are torn on controversial plan for south Surrey housing

Larry Pynn
The Vancouver Sun

A planned residential development in rural Hazelmere in south Surrey was described Friday as both a dangerous land-use precedent and a boost to young farmers and the local environment.

The Metro Vancouver regional board ultimately decided that residents should have a say at a public hearing before a final decision is made on the project.

Regional staff had recommended against the City of Surrey’s request to amend the Metro 2040: Shaping our Future land-use designation map in order to accommodate the development proposal.

The amendment would create a “23.7-hectare non-contiguous extension” of the Metro 2040 Urban Containment Boundary, and redesignate lands from Metro 2040 Rural to General Urban.

The plan for a 145-lot single-family residential subdivision, housing about 450 residents, would require extending regional sewer lines to the site, which is part of the Hazelmere golf course development. 

“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,” the staff report read.

“In addition, approval would set a clear precedent regarding the permeability of the urban containment boundary, and likely trigger additional land development speculation in the rural areas of southeastern Surrey and other similar areas of the region.”

But the majority of regional directors felt the public should have a say in the project through a public hearing and believed the project had some merit, because it also puts about 1.5 hectares back into the agricultural land reserve, provides opportunities for young farmers on otherwise fallow lands, improves irrigation and drainage, and offers a superior alternative to septic fields. 

The Semiahmoo First Nation, which stands to gain financially from the development, recommended approval.

Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner noted that her council had dealt with development applications for the property three times in as many years and that “on balance” supported the latest proposal.

Sarah Rush of Friends of Hazelmere-Campbell Valley spoke against the development, warning “this fits the definition of urban sprawl” and “there is no public (transit) … and unlikely there ever will be.”

Richmond councillor and long-time farming advocate Harold Steves feared the development would only fuel further speculation on farmland in the surrounding area.

Nathan Hildebrand, representing the land owner, Hazelmere Golf and Tennis Club, insisted the residential development “will complete the ultimate vision for this golf-course community” and noted that the land is not within the agricultural land reserve.

Vancouver councillor Andrea Reimer said she is torn on the issue and voted against the development at the committee level, but ultimately decided to support putting the matter to the public. “It’s a very challenging issue that would benefit from a full public hearing … before coming to a decision.”

An amendment bylaw will come back to the regional board before a public hearing being held.

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