Last week’s census numbers showed Surrey’s population grew by 19 per cent, almost 75,000 new citizens, in just five years.
To the growth-at-all-costs folks, this is good news for the economy.
But for those of us who actually live in Surrey, who get stuck on congested roads and overcrowded buses, in crammed emergency rooms and in portable classrooms bursting at the seams, it’s the same old story.
Mayor Dianne Watts says we must continue to develop at a breakneck pace in Surrey because slowing down – managing growth – would cost us jobs. At the same time, she wishes there were more hospitals, schools and buses, especially in chronically underserved neighbourhoods like East Clayton.
The responsibility for growth management ultimately lies with City Council.
Surrey Council has failed miserably to negotiate key infrastructure improvements like new schools, hospitals, roads and enough buses. Despite this, they continue to approve almost every new development.
When you don’t plan for growth, you suffer perpetual growing pains.
Surrey’s infrastructure is constantly lagging behind its true needs while its rate of growth shows no sign of slowing down anytime soon. It’s sort of like being on a treadmill that never ends.
And it doesn’t appear that the city will be changing tack anytime soon. Surrey is pushing to build brand-new neighbourhoods out of vast areas of green fields in the Anniedale-Tynehead and Grandview Heights areas.
Because these areas are currently rural, they lack any services whatsoever: no roads, transit, water, sewer, schools, etc. The city estimates that it will spend $22 million more on water and sewer for Tynehead than it can recoup through Development Cost Charges. So why is this expansion allowed to proceed? Who is actually calling the shots?
The current council will undoubtedly proceed with pop-up neighbourhoods in these two areas.
Tynehead and Grandview Heights residents will suffer the same effects currently experienced by residents of East Clayton and throughout Surrey: kids stuffed into schools like sardines, car-dependent families backed up in rush-hour traffic, unable to get into an ER should someone fall ill.
Exponential growth that is not sustainable is nothing to brag about. Surrey’s growth is currently emerging as the worst kind of suburban sprawl and this must change if the city is going to thrive in the long term.
– Stephanie Ryan is a 25-year resident of Surrey who ran for city council in 2011 with the Surrey Civic Coalition.