Surrey has seen a significant run on residential development lately, particularly in the form of high-rise towers in the city centre.
Three major developments in Whalley were before council during the Dec. 7 public hearing, the first featuring two high-rise towers, at 10662 King George Boulevard and 10677 Whalley Boulevard, where King Rise Developments Ltd. seeks to build 1,019 residential dwelling units and 731 square metres of commercial floor space.
The second is in the 13400-block of 105A Avenue, the 10500-block of University Drive, the 10500-block of 134A Street and 13437 105th Avenue, where 105 University View Homes Ltd. proposes to develop two high-rise residential towers and a mid-rise rental apartment building with a child care centre at ground level.
Meantime, Yorktown 108 Development Corp. proposes to build a pair of six-storey apartment buildings containing 193 dwelling units in the 13800-block of 108th Avenue.
These development proposals passed third reading later in the meeting. During the public hearing, held digitally, a couple of callers raised concern about Surrey firefighters having sufficient manpower to be able to properly tackle fires at these highrises. Ramona Kaptyn, who intends to run as a Surrey Connect candidate for council in the next civic election, said she’s “very concerned about the the lack of firefighters for all these high-rises that are going up.”
Resident Annie Kaps echoed that.
“There’s not one person just living in them,” Kaps noted. “What are you doing for our fire services for these high-rises. How in the world are they even going to service a fire in a higher storey? It’s just, you go for all these developments but you’re not doing the support services.”
The city’s budget for 2021, approved by council on Dec. 7, will see 10 more firefighters hired in the new year to help meet service demands in North Surrey and the city’s downtown.
“We’re going to assign them to a station in the north, we haven’t finished our deployment analysis on the actual location where they’re going to be but it’s going to add another truck to the cadre of trucks in the north, in that services for downtown area,” Surrey Fire Chief Larry Thomas told the Now-Leader.
Thomas noted there are “very low” fire rates in modern high-rises because they are “fire protection engineered with the most modern systems, so the problems typically aren’t as big as a regular house fire.
“We do have adequate resources to meet that,” he said. “It’s when you get multiple calls at the same time is where we would need extra resources and we’re just not experiencing that. We do monitor our performance on a regular basis and if performance was to dip because the demands were too great, specific to high-rise fires, it would be my job to advocate for additions to staff.”
Looking ahead, Councillor Doug Elford told the Now-Leader before the meeting that he predicts a “lot more” office tower proposals will be coming before council. “We have a positive government now, provincially, that in a sense they’re building schools and working on catching up, which helps.”
“We’re in a huge growth period,” Elford said. “All these projects that we’re approving downtown, from what I understand, I’ve been told by the experts, are selling out, literally selling out.
“When you’re in that sweet spot, they come to us, it’s not like we’re out hustling for business, right, they’re coming to us,” Elford said. “From what I understand there’s more on the way and I honestly think the SkyTrain to Langley is going to, you’ll see a migration of large corporations pop up out here because everybody lives out here, right.”
At recent council meetings, following a public hearing, council approved a development at 10138 Whalley Blvd. featuring three high-rise residential towers – a 23-storey building and the other two 32 and 39 floors – as well as two 13-storey mid-rise market residential towers, a six-storey apartment building and ground-level retail space including a cafe and daycare.
It also gave the nod to a 38-storey tower with 392 units at 9644 and 9656 King George Blvd., to a five-and-six-storey apartment development at 6595-196th St., a four-storey mixed use building with retail, office space and 21 residential units at 7168-192 St., three four-storey apartment buildings with 261 units in the 13700-block of 76th Avenue and 75A Avenue, and a 31-storey high-rise residential tower containing 293 apartments, five townhouse units and a separate four-storey commercial building at 9644 and 9656 King George Blvd.
Elford says it’s a different story for other Canadian cities and their councils.
“They have the fear of God in their eyes,” he said. “They don’t know where they’re going to get, how they’re going to run their cities. They don’t have the same kind of encouraging development; their industries are shutting down, their workers are migrating out of their towns, they’re worried about how they’re going to plow the snow in the following season, right, where with us, there’s a lot of money coming in.
“With all these huge developments comes money for fire halls and amenities and things like that as well,” Elford said. “Money in the bank.”
Also approved were a five-storey apartment building with 65 dwelling units and underground parking in the 14200-block of 103A Avenue, two high-rise residential towers with 1,014 dwelling units on City Parkway, 134A Street and 105A Avenue, and two six-storey apartment buildings with 173 dwelling units in the 13900-block of 96th Avenue and 13900-block of Laurel Drive.
Councillor Steven Pettigrew said he’s concerned about the clear-cutting of trees to make way for development. “I’m cocnerned about the type of density that’s happening,” he said. “I’m concerned about what effect the density is going to have on future populations.”
Callers are asking Surrey council tonight how it will ensure there are sufficient firefighters to deal with the many highrise towers that have been coming before council as it considers project applications during public hearings. #surreybc
— Tom Zytaruk (@tomzytaruk) December 8, 2020