In a 5-4 vote, Surrey council has voted against pausing development along the future SkyTrain corridor.
Councillor Brenda Locke tabled a motion at Monday night’s council meeting to “measure twice and cut once” along Fraser Highway, where the SkyTrain extension is planned.
Locke had called for a “hold” on development applications for “up to 10 months” until the city has approved a new land use plan for the highway.
“Development and density go hand-in-hand with SkyTrain and that’s what makes the system efficient and successful,” said Locke in a release, prior to the meeting. “But, I think it would be a good idea to press pause on any development approvals until we’ve developed our new land use plan around the area and made sure we’ve taken into account the sorts of infrastructure, community amenities and schools that will be needed as neighbourhoods grow dramatically around SkyTrain stations.”
On Monday night, Locke said it was “disappointing” council didn’t pass her motion.
“With the potential for 100,000+ along the SkyTrain corridor it is important to consult with communities and consider the necessary infrastructure. Unfortunately the Surrey Mayor and some councillors didn’t agree,” she tweeted.
Mayor Doug McCallum and councillors Laurie Guerra, Doug Elford, Allison Patton and Mandeep Nagra voted against the motion, while councillors Jack Hundial, Steven Pettigrew and Linda Annis supported it.
McCallum said Locke’s motion “goes completely against the intent of the last campaign, which from my point of view, was a major pillar of our smart cities development.”
“If we got elected from the people of Surrey, we indicated we would densify along the transit corridors. So with the SkyTrain, now, basically approved by the Mayor’s Council, and this council unanimously, the thing that follows is we need to now densify along this corridor.”
McCallum said the planning process will “start right away now.”
“The intent is to densify along the Fraser Highway corridor, and as most people realize, the projects and the densification will take a whole number of years before they’re built,” the mayor added, noting the city’s intent is to “encourage people to build and densify along” the future SkyTrain line.
“That was a cornerstone of our smart development so this particular motion goes completely in the opposite direction.”
Before the vote, Hundial spoke in support of Locke’s motion, saying “once it’s laid down, it’s laid down certainly for the rest of our lives.”
Pettigrew said “we have one shot at this,” while lone Surrey First councillor Annis said it’s “very important we do this methodically and get it right the first time.”
Prior to the vote, Locke – a member of McCallum’s Safe Surrey Coalition and a SkyTrain supporter – said Surrey has seen what happens when development outpaces infrastructure such as schools, parks, parking and other community amenities.
“We get one chance to get this important project right and that has to include public consultation and a solid land use plan that ensures we’re making the most of SkyTrain and the density that comes with it,” added Locke. “Taking the time to make sure the community, businesses and neighbours have been consulted is key. You only have to look at SkyTrain stations at City Centre and King George to see the kind of growth that’s possible. SkyTrain equals density, so taking a few months to make sure we’re prepared with a proper plan only makes sense.”
In a separate vote on Monday night, council gave its approval to staff to amend the Surrey Official Community Plan to “strengthen the alignment between the Surrey Langley SkyTrain extension and the policies within the OCP.”
Locke asked staff how long the process would take and staff estimated it would take one year to get to “stage one land use approval,” which would include consultation with external and internal organizations, including the school district.