Architect Martin Lieuw describes preliminary plans for a development proposal at 26th Avenue and 152 Street to residents at a May 16 public information meeting at Jessie Lee Elementary. (Alex Browne photo)

South Surrey residents deliver loud ‘no’ to condo proposal

Four- or five-storey building suggested for 152 Street and 26 Avenue

More than 80 area residents who packed a May 16 public information meeting on a proposed condo development for the southwest corner of 26 Avenue and 152 Street in South Surrey left little doubt of their opposition to the project.

Members of the public who attended the meeting at Jessie Lee Elementary – most of them seniors and many of them homeowners in the nearby Bishop’s Green residential community – were twice asked by other attendees for an informal show of hands of those opposing the proposal.

Both times, a forest of raised arms sent a clear message of disapproval to architect Martin Lieuw, along with landscaping consultants and staffers from the Arlington Group, representing the property owners.

The site – which would require rezoning for the project – would consolidate one property, currently zoned one-acre residential, with three others, zoned single-family residential, Arlington meeting moderator Graham Farstad said.

Proposed is a building that would provide between 40 and 45 one- and two-bedroom units geared to families and seniors, with 10 per cent dedicated to three ground-floor commercial units facing 152 Street.

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Lieuw explained that he had come with a model and drawings depicting two possible alternatives – a four-storey and a five-storey building. The sloping grade of the property would lessen the height impact of either version, he – and other project representatives – noted.

The five-storey version would provide a slimmer building, he said – and greater separation from neighbours in Bishop’s Green – while the four-storey building would be more spread-out and closer to surrounding buildings.

Also on hand to observe the meeting was City of Surrey planner Christa Brown, who told the crowd that feedback from residents would be taken into account once a formal application for the property is received, and that she would write a report to council on the proposal at that time.

Farstad said that the proponents were taking the proposal for a mixed-use strata condo development to the public “rather early in the process.”

This, he said, would offer a “better chance to shape the nature of the development to go forward.”

But loud and often abrasive comments from the crowd showed the majority present were not in the mood to entertain such a development in any shape or form – or hear details of building features, tree placement and landscaping.

“We were invited to an information meeting, but you’re not giving us information, you’re trying to sell us something,” Eric O’Dell said. “We’re not buying it.”

“It doesn’t matter how nice it looks – we don’t want it,” Barbara Oliver added.

Among concerns voiced by residents were that the preliminary building design shows intention of fitting in with surrounding development – including Bishop’s Green and single family homes.

Some said they had bought their homes 17 years ago on the distinct understanding that the area would not be up-zoned.

Neighbours also said they fear residents and visitors of such a development would use on-street parking rather than underground parking, causing congestion in the area.

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Other concerns were that the windows and balconies on the proposed building would encroach on privacy of neighbourhood residents, and that models incorrectly minimized heights of possible configurations against existing buildings.

Residents were also skeptical of the property owner’s sensitivity to the existing neighborhood ambience.

“This is not a level playing field – everyone here was asked to give their name and address, but we don’t know anything about the applicant,” Dr. Gerry Fisher said.

Area resident Gordon Ebbeson said the sole reason that neighbours are being asked to entertain the idea of a four- or five-storey building next door is that single family homes or townhouses are not economically viable for the developer in the current market.

“It’s not my job to make him money,” he said. “The developer can go and make money somewhere else.”

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