The Land Use
In September 2014, Council passed a motion to proceed initiate a Local Area Plan for South Campbell Heights by authorizing an environmental study (which was completed by Madrone in the summer of 2015). It was approved by Council that all re-zoning applications submitted to the City would be “referred to Staff” until the development process system until the LAP was completed; this puts any application “on hold” until Planning Staff has enough information and statutory direction like by having zoning via a land use plan). This was accomplished by resolution R14-1605.
In other words, Council voted to direct Planning not to work on any re-zonings or Official Community Plan amendments for the “South Campbell Heights” area to proceed until a vision for the area was examined by experts, consultants, Surrey staff, the community and passed by Council. This is a process that can take up to two years to complete.
A large portion (600 acres) of the proposed South Campbell Lands (the area residents call Hazelmere/Campbell Valley) are identified as a “Special Study Area” in both the Metro Vancouver Regional Growth Strategy (“RGS”) and the Surrey Official Community Plan (“OCP”) indicating an area of the City where future land planning is projected, potentially leading to changes from current land use in the future. Currently, this is land with A-1 Agricultural zoning. This industrial re-zoning proposal is in the middle of the Special Study Area. The Area was shown to be of high biodiversity value in the June 2015 Madrone report submitted to the City of Surrey.
One year later, on September 14, 2015 at the Regular Council Meeting, Mayor and Council unanimously passed a motion to receive the Terms of Reference for the Preparation of the South Campbell Heights Local Area Plan. (Corporate Report R187). Staff was then authorized to proceed with preparation of the LAP, expected to complete by 2018. Re-zoning applications would not be undertaken before the LAP is complete, highlighting the necessity of having a cohesive view of especially the 600 acre Special Study Area. However, re-zoning application 15-0227 was exempted from waiting for consideration until the LAP is complete. The Chair of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Tom Gill, proposed that this application would contribute to a solution for the parking of local independent Surrey truckers’ vehicles, which “has been a very sensitive and topical issue over the last decade, yet we will have 1300 illegally parked trucks in Surrey impacting our residential neighbourhoods and farmlands.” Application 15-0227 was then moved to the purview of Staff, to be considered via “ approved technical staff reviews and consultation.”(Minutes, p. 20).
To back up by a few months, in the summer of 2015, several things happened. The Madrone Study, which identifies the high and unique biodiversity of the area, was completed. Here are the two parts of the study. Section 1. Section 2:Appended Study Area.
Application 15-0227 for a truck park was submitted to Planning on July 13, 2015. This application is in the current form as on the main Application page here.
The City of Surrey Transportation Infrastructure Committee, chaired by Councillor Tom Gill, received a delegation on July 22 about the necessity for truck parking facilities for local Surrey truckers. GG Metro Holdings, represented by director Parm Garsha was to present this delegation but two other individuals presented instead. Minutes.
The Applicant, GG Metro Holdings, was advised by Planning staff on August 26, 2015 that Council’s 2014 resolution (RES R14-1605) which states that applications in the South Campbell Heights area requiring an OCP amendment would be referred back to staff until the land use study was complete.
The Transportation Infrastructure Committee minutes on September 11th then refer to (inconclusive) correspondence with Provincial Transportation Minister Todd Stone about the suitability of the 16th and 192nd site. Minutes.
The minutes also mention that the South Campbell LAP terms of reference will be voted on in Council on September 14th, but no mention is made of bringing forward a special exception to allow application 15-0227 to “leapfrog” the LAP.
Three days later, the Applicant was before Council for a vote to allow Planning to consider it “ahead of” the LAP process, thereby rescinding the Council resolution of the previous September which stated that any applications requiring an OCP amendment would remain with staff until the LAP was complete.
Here is a map of the 600 acre Special Study Area with the application boundary indicated.
Question: is it right to remove a strategically-important percentage of land situated in the midst of the Special Study Area for a re-zoning to industrial before the necessary context of a Local Area Plan is complete? No matter the language, this is a “fast track” of this application. It is being considered outside the context and “ahead of” of a Local Area Plan. The outcome of this re-zoning, if it proceeds, will inevitably and seriously influence the outcome of the land use designations of the Local Area Plan.
Is there an application before Council or not?
Since September, Surrey Mayor and Councillors have generally responded to taxpayer inquiries about this application by saying that “there is no application before Council at this time.” True, the details provided to Planning to date have been scant. At the same time, there has been overt representation in the press on behalf of the applicant, GG Metro, and by the Chair of the Transportation Infrastructure Committee. Some Councillors acknowledge the application while others do not. Why the mixed message?
Surrey Council passes approvals on hundreds of land re-zoning applications per year. Typically, Council members receive a Planning Report to Council regarding the application(s) on the agenda on the Thursday before the Monday Land Use Meeting where the application is proposed for First and Second Reading. (This gives the application the go-ahead for a Public Hearing at the next Council meeting, then Third Reading).
Strictly speaking, this means that the application can is “before Council” for approximately three days before it goes for First and Second Reading as well as in the intervening weeks between that time and Public Hearing. Residents and taxpayers may send correspondence to Council members about an application, but the matter may technically not “before Council” until the day that they receive the Council package including the Planning Report on the re-zoning. If an application is denied Third Reading (after the Public Hearing) and/or “referred back to Staff” for further work, then Council members are not to engage with the public until the issue is resolved.
On files of concern, however, the public often engages Council in discussion before First and Second reading, the period of which the file is officially “before Council.” Why is this file such a difficulty for Council to speak about? It is true that the applicant has not shared a lot of information with Staff thus far, but it is also the responsibility of elected officials to hear and respond to the concerns of constituents with substance.
From a technical perspective, in the case of this application at issue (the Truck Parking Facility), the file is indeed de facto “before Council” because Council unanimously voted that it should be considered in advance of the Local Area Plan for South Campbell Heights and therefore has already “seen” it.