LETTER: Development will destroy neighbourhood

Heather Whitaker laments the irreparable damage she says new builds on 72nd Avenue will do to her neighbourhood.

Further to Lisa Lewko’s letter in the July 28 edition of your paper, I am rarely moved by issues to the degree that I feel the need to publicly voice my opinion. However, on the subject of this so-called “revitalization” of 72nd Avenue west of 116th Street, I simply have to weigh in. I truly feel that my neighbours and I have been betrayed by Delta council selling out an established, family-oriented neighbourhood for what I perceive to be a quest for more tax revenue.

Lisa obviously did her homework before writing her article, quoting the numbers and painting a picture of the area’s future. However, the one thing that has come to light since then is the plan to expand 72nd to four lanes, partly to accommodate the other sell-out at the bottom of the hill where 72nd meets Highway 91 – the area we fought so hard to prevent from becoming high-density residential.

Now you’ve read the facts, but has anyone (especially Delta council, who always spouts North Delta’s family-friendly attributes) considered the emotional impact of such changes to the individual families whose lives will be turned upside-down?

Here’s my gut reaction to this upheaval:

Ten years ago, my husband and I wanted to escape the densely-packed townhouse and apartment jungle of New Westminster, so we began searching in nearby municipalities for an affordable single-family home on a piece of land large enough to support our classic car hobby.

After months of searching, we finally found it: a small, well-maintained, seemingly tailor-made-for-us house on a one-third acre lot surrounded by beautiful fir trees and only a stone’s throw from major routes to all points of the compass.

Over the years we have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars to customize the property to our specific needs, come to know our neighbours (some of whom have raised their families here) and developed that feeling of community not felt in many areas of the Lower Mainland.

Yards here are well maintained and nearly every home

in our area sees annual upgrades. We wave to neighbours gardening, cutting their lawns or walking their dogs. We stop to talk and it reinforces that calm feeling of being exactly where we want to be.

Enter the realtors! Suddenly my heart races, not from the big money numbers they throw around, but from learning that our family’s little piece of heaven is slated to be bull- dozed and all those beautiful trees will be gone. Although our property is not on 72nd, the proposed widening to four lanes will encroach on the land behind us and, with three-story townhouses filling both sides of 72nd as well as a portion of 116th, our green, serene property will become an access street and parking lot!

And what of the neighbours who stay? After the chaos of construction subsides and the loss of greenery becomes the new norm, there’s the massive increase of traffic on a street where kids used to play ball hockey and ride their bikes, not to mention the loss of privacy with shoulder to shoulder townhouses looming over the remaining backyards.

I am so gravely disappointed that this city has turned its back on the very people who have made this community what it is today. Areas like ours seem destined to become more anonymous rabbit warrens full of people too self-absorbed to stop and visit with neighbours or enjoy a quiet afternoon sitting in the yard listening to the birds and watching the bees gather pollen from our garden flowers.

The Lower Mainland has gone crazy over the past several years. Big money is thrown at homeowners, tempting them to take it and run, which clears the way for developers to march in and turn our personal green spaces into high-density housing and asphalt. Where will it end?

If you are as concerned as I am about this trend, let’s hear from you. Not that it will do any good necessarily, but at least you can voice your displeasure and maybe we can prompt other neighbourhoods to take a stand against future disasters before we have no land left to call our own.

Heather Whitaker, via email.