City council has delayed its decision on a controversial proposal to build hundreds of homes on a Surrey golf course after a marathon public hearing that lasted roughly five hours Monday night.
The meeting will continue on Tuesday, Feb. 6 at 7 p.m. after being adjourned by Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner shortly before 12:30 a.m. Tuesday morning, much to the chagrin of Surrey teacher Kamaljit Sahota who was in the midst of expressing her opposition.
It was standing room only in Surrey council chambers Monday night, as council heard from dozens of people in the community.
Almost 90 people signed up to speak, but not all got their chance Monday.
In all, Hepner said there were 57 people signed up at the meeting in support of the proposal who didn’t wish to speak, and 56 in support who intended to speak.
In opposition, there were 121 people signed up not wishing to speak and 23 who wanted to speak against it. One person who was in opposition, Hepner noted, represented a petition of more than 2,800 signatures.
There were others who signed up as “undecided.”
Anthem Properties Group is behind the controversial proposal, seeking to turn a portion of Eaglequest Surrey Coyote Creek golf course into 325 homes.
Proposed is a mixed-use development at 7778, 7858 and 7902 152nd Street. The project includes 60 rental apartments, 46 duplexes and 219 townhouses, as well as an amenity building and about 4,000 square feet of retail space that includes new daycare spots for the city.
The project requires an Official Community Plan amendment of a portion of the property from Suburban and Agricultural to Multiple Residential, as well as rezoning of part of the property and a development permit.
Standing room only at Surrey City Council during a public hearing for a controversial development at Eaglequest Coyote Creek golf course. (Photo: Amy Reid)
At the public hearing, the owner of the golf course spoke to council and explained the financial situation is currently “pretty dire.”
City council heard that Eaglequest’s golf revenues were $700,000 in 2007 and that dropped to $350,000 in 2017. The company explained the business would not exist today if it was not able to be sustained by outside finances.
If the proposal went ahead, the course would turn into a nine- or 12-hole operation, and it would mean a redesigned clubhouse as well as recreational spaces to be used not just by golfers but also for yoga and spin classes.
Without the project moving forward, the company would likely sell the land.
But opponents say the proposal does not respect the need to reduce school overcrowding, recognize the “major traffic problems,” adhere to the official community plan, protect the Fleetwood Habitat Corridor, account for additional pressures on medical and emergency services and value the benefits of recreational greenspace for future generations.
Longtime Fleetwood resident Fred Kubosek told city council he was “shocked” when visiting the first public consultation meeting held by the developer.
“In my opinion, this is a master disaster. Did we learn nothing from Clayton Heights?” Kubosek said the course if one of the “few green spaces left in the Fleetwood neighbourhood.”
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Applause erupted after he added it’s not the developer’s business to “tell us what’s good for the Fleetwood neighbourhood at large.”
“You’ve heard loud and clear how the community feels about this…. What more can we do?”
“I believe this is a watershed moment in Surrey,” said Kubosek. “There’s great concern booth loss of habitat and greenspace…. We’re not a group against development but a group with community in mind. From where I see it the course is simple, you must stop this development.”
Another longtime resident John McKitrick, who lives next to the golf course, urged city council to reject the Anthem proposal.
The retired newsman told councillors he bought his home based on the OCP, and the assurance such a dense project would not materialize.
“Does this send a signal to other Surrey golf courses that their courses are in play for high density housing development?…. Keep the legacy for our children, our grandchildren, all the people of Surrey…. What will your legacy be? Will you be remembered for the preservation of parks and recreation or for taking the very first step for its destruction?”
McKitrick said “let’s be clear about this, we’re not against more housing development. In fact, we strongly support Surrey’s march to status as the largest community in B.C.”
Wendy Davidoff, with the Coyote Creek Action Committee against the proposal, said the developer hasn’t adequately consulted with residents.
“At no time did Anthem ever try to engage the broader community – the one to two kilometre radius around the development… So we did.”
Davidoff said the opposition created an online presence, mailers and flyers, and then engaged the community directly.
“We went door to door,” she told council, adding, “overwhelmingly, (they) were not in favour of this development.”
Davidoff said the team knocked on over 700 doors and talked to people personally, and that 99 per cent of people they spoke to had concerns.
“We are in a David and Goliath situation here,” said Davidoff. “Basically we brought a knife to a gun fight.”
She urged council to let the city get “ahead of the curve for school infrastructure.”
“You are our voice,” she added. “You have our backs. It is your job to represent us as the citizens of Surrey…. At the end of the day, our comment is that we want to follow the OCP.”
Meantime, several local residents spoke in favour of the project, expressing the need for accepting density in a growing suburban neighbourhood as well as the need to densify due to rising home costs.
One resident called it an “oasis,” another referred to the proposal as “brilliantly designed.”
Anne Peterson with Surrey Board of Trade spoke in support of Anthem development. “We recognize that the owners are desiring to improve their facilities and become a better facility for the Surrey public,” said Peterson. “We respect that.”
Peterson also spoke of traffic upgrades as part of the development, and the need in Surrey for affordable housing.
“We take requests for support very seriously,” she said. “Such requests are reviewed by our team members and be in line with our policies,” she added, pointing to a continuum of housing options for young families, new childcare spaces, livable streetscapes and more.
Fleetwood BIA director Dean Barbour also spoke in favour of the project.
Doug Peat, representing SurreyCares Foundation, pointed to the organization’s Vital Signs report. He noted this survey revealed a need for rental housing, an increase in park spaces, subsidized housing as well as more daycare spaces — all of which the development proposal offered.
“A dedicated space for daycare, so needed in our community,” said Peat. “Dedicated rental housing. So needed. So desperately needed.”
Sybil Rowe – an environmental activist who has heavily opposed tree falling and development in her Grandview Heights neighbourhood – says she was surprised by this developer’s openness to compromise and consult.
“This was a group who appeared to me to be genuinely trying to build a development that would fit into the community and be a good place to live, from all aspects,” said Rowe. Geared to the “struggling middle class, both young and old. It’s a refreshing change.”
“I see it as an asset to the community,” she noted, adding that it takes the environment into account.
Steve Forrest, vice president of development for Anthem Properties, told council he’s a longtime resident of Surrey.
“I do care about the legacy I leave behind for my children,” said Forrest.
He told council the company has conducted “extensive” consultation, via three public meetings as well as conversations, phone calls and emails.
Forrest said he believes the project offers affordable homes, a sustainable footprint, and positive change for the golf course community, offering anyone with questions to speak with his representatives after the meeting.
Forrest also spoke of the late Rick Hart, who was referred to as the Mayor of Fleetwood for his advocacy in the community.
“He liked and endorsed what we were doing,” said Forrest.
Ahead of the public hearing, Randene Neill with Anthem Properties also said the development company has consulted with neighbours and area residents for the past two years, “listening and acting on their suggestion.”
Neill said Anthem has made changes in response to their concerns, which are outlined on a website created by the developer, at coyotecreekdevelopment.ca.
The website states community consultation has resulted in the developer reducing the project’s density by 61 units, expanding the parkland within the proposal, an increased green buffer for neighbours and a reduction in apartment height from five storeys to four.
The project includes five acres of new public parkland to replace golf course land and a network of dedicated public trails.
Sixty rental apartments are proposed and the developer says five per cent of those will be rented at 20 per cent below market value.
The proposal also includes daycare, retail and a “rejuvenated” golf course and clubhouse.
A 77th Avenue extension is proposed to help “relieve local traffic patterns” and improve road safety, according to the website.
As for school overcapacity concerns, the developer’s website notes $13 million is earmarked to add 365 seats in Fleetwood schools.