Porte Development Concerns
Published on 2018/01/05
6 min read
Porte Developments has applied to the City of Surrey to re-zone the property at 3660 and 3690 152nd Street (formerly the Rosemary Heights Retreat Centre) to Comprehensive Development in order to build 278 townhouses and 23 single-family homes on this highly sensitive riparian forest bordering the Nicomekl River. The property is the last vestige of undeveloped forest in the area.
Rosemary Heights residents and constituents have made clear their opposition to the re-zoning and to the proposed development. The arguments against this proposal are factual, strong and indisputable. The Rosemary Heights Community Association (RHCA) is a group of concerned residents who have volunteered to formally represent the community and its position to Surrey City Council on this matter.
Arguments Against – At A Glance
The RHCA has identified four key areas of concern with the proposal and have created sub-committees to capture neighbourhood sentiment, research, fact check and report on each respective issue. The key areas of concern are:
- Conflict with the Neighbourhood Concept Plan
- Impact on Ecologically Sensitive Riparian Lands
- Traffic Impact
- School Capacity
Comprehensive reports from each of these sub-committees are included in this package. We ask that you review each one thoroughly in order to be fully informed of the rationale for the community’s opposition to the re-zoning application and subsequent development proposal.
Conflict with the Neighbourhood Concept Plan
- The Rosemary Heights NCP is an award-winning, highly-successful NCP that was supported and validated by the City of Surrey, and approved in 1996. It is the basis on which community residents have chosen to purchase their properties and its success is what makes the community so livable
- The original NCP is very specific and clear that this property is a highly environmentally sensitive riparian forest worthy of protection under the City’s Biodiversity Conservation Strategy. Notably, the ecological complexity and sensitivity of these lands is referenced in the original EnviroWest Report prepared in 1996. As such, it was designated for institutional/park use only. The ecological importance and sensitivity of the lands has not changed--and in fact is likely increased--since the original NCP was prepared.
- The NCP estimated 2,042 residential units and 5544 residents in the Rosemary Heights community. The current population now well exceeds this number.
- Infrastructure in Rosemary Heights, including roads, schools, parks and amenities, was developed based on the NCP. While the current population has increased well beyond the intended levels of the NCP, infrastructure has not been upgraded proportionately, resulting in overcrowded schools and significant traffic congestion.
- Porte’s development plan will bring an estimated 1,000 additional residents to a community already burdened with insufficient infrastructure. Yet, they plan to connect into this infrastructure without providing any benefit/value to the surrounding community.
- Population density and lack of infrastructure have negatively impacted livability in Rosemary Heights. Residents have expressed repeatedly to council that development continues to be prolific and well in excess of local capacity, including the addition of Harvard Gardens and Virdian Homes, changes to the suburban pocket, additional subdivisions in the neighbourhood, and surrounding residential and commercial developments in Grandview Heights, which pose significant traffic burdens for the area. This creates further disparity between the intended population numbers set forth in the NCP and actual growth.
- The addition of yet another high-density development of the size and scope of Porte Developments’ proposal, will only further detract from the livability in the community.
The Rosemary Heights NCP is a highly successful plan that resulted from close collaboration between City Planning and area residents. This proposal undermines, rather than compliments, the elements of the NCP that make the community so livable.
Impact on Ecologically Sensitive Riparian Lands
- Despite purchasing the property with full knowledge that the land is designated as institutional / park land, Porte Developments is seeking to eliminate a significant portion of the natural old growth forest around which our neighbourhood was designed, and replace it with high density housing.
- The City of Surrey’s own scientific research has identified the ecological sensitivity of the property and riparian forest as a key spoke in the City’s conservation strategy.
- The property has been identified by the Surrey Biodiversity Conservation Strategy (BCS) Green Infrastructure Network (GIN) as being a major hub for animal mating and migrations. This report ranked the Rosemary Heights wildlife corridor as 5th among all of Surrey’s Hub-to-Hub corridors in terms of ecological importance.
- Development of the property is contrary to Surrey’s involvement in the David Suzuki Blue Dot movement.
- This is the last remaining forested area in the Rosemary Heights and surrounding neighbourhoods, and should therefore be preserved as such.
- Given that the City of Surrey Biodiversity Conservation Strategy has designated the subject lands as "high value", ecologically sensitive and integral for preservation of the City’s ecological diversity and wildlife corridors, the community is concerned that the proposed townhouse development, which contemplates removal of ~95% of the upland forest and intrusion upon the riparian slope, is not in keeping with the City of Surrey Biodiversity Conservation Strategy and Green Infrastructure Network Plans.
- The road systems in Rosemary Heights were designed and built to accommodate estimated population levels identified in the Neighbourhood Concept Plan. With the population growth far exceeding the numbers in the NCP, traffic congestion, noise and safety have become fundamental concerns in the community.
- Rates of speed, congestion, traffic dodging, road rage incidents and other motor vehicle violations have dramatically increased proportionately with the population growth.
- The addition of approximately 1,000 residents to the proposed development will further exacerbate these traffic issues.
- Specific to Porte’s design plans for road systems within the proposed development, the access points in and out are fraught with road safety issues, community/livability impact, and create ripe conditions for imminent tragedy.
- The applicant proposes to decimate an ecologically sensitive forest and disseminate additional traffic throughout the community’s road network, but proposes no corresponding benefit to the (already-established) community.
- Schools in the Rosemary Heights community are already far over capacity.
- 278 townhouses are the most attractive option for young families in the current real estate market. A conservative real world estimate would be 300 children. The infrastructure is simply not in place to accommodate another large influx of children.
- Overcrowding has a tremendous negative impact on the quality of education that students receive. It increases classroom discipline issues and struggling students fall further behind. Access to equipment, library, gym space, technology and playground equipment is limited and the learning environment is compromised. Parents in our community are well aware of the negative impact of overcrowding on our children’s education.
The Rosemary Heights Community’s position is that the current zoning of these lands as Institutional is consistent with the NCP, around which our community was laid-out and designed. In light of the deficiencies of the current proposal, residents call upon council to leave the land designation intact, and to come up with options that would fit well with the community. Institutional amenities on the already developed land could consist of a library, police station, community centre, fire hall, church, or school for example. These uses are preferable because they:
- Would have a minimal impact on infrastructure (traffic, schools, hospitals, etc.);
- Could be built within the existing developed footprint of the lands without requiring their deforestation;
- Would have only periodic traffic impacts that could be more easily mitigated;
- Are in keeping with the NCP, on which basis residents purchased their properties; and, most importantly,
- Would add value to the community.
In conjunction with the above uses, the undeveloped land containing the highly sensitive forest should be protected as park land and opened up for the benefit of city residents with walking trails.
While the excessive value of the land has been cited as an obstacle to ensuring its use contributes to the public good, in this regard the RHCA notes that:
- The land value (and therefore its range of potential uses) is set by its zoning designation (currently, Institutional), which is decided by council acting on behalf of Surrey residents and voters.
- Porte purchased these lands and exercised its option to close with full awareness of the lands’ current zoning as Institutional/park land.