Surrey Mayor Brenda Locke has set up a Focus Newton Task Force – with Councillor Harry Bains as its chairman and councillors Pardeep Kooner, Doug Elford and Mandeep Nagra also serving – that will aim to improve daily life in the city-sized town centre.
“One of the things not only did we observe but one of the things we’ve heard a lot about is that Newton isn’t taken care of, that there is messy streets, some of the streets aren’t curbed properly, there are lack of crosswalks, some of the businesses’ signs abuse the sign bylaw, just a myriad of things,” Locke told the Now-Leader. “We just want to improve the look and the feel of Newton. It’s the biggest, most populated anyway, community and we want it to look great and feel great and we want the parks there to be kept nice and proper like all parks should.”
Locke revealed the appointments at the Feb. 13 council meeting.
Bains said the four members of this task force, all Newton residents themselves, will meet likely within a week to define its scope, with part of that being an aim to improve the “daily lives” of Newton residents. “Definitely I will be seeking public engagement because I think it’s important that the residents of our city have a voice and really tell us what needs to be fixed.”
He expects the task force will report to council by late spring or early summer.
“Newton needs a little bit of TLC, and we’re not talking major infrastructure projects or anything like that but we’re talking about things that affect the residents of Newton on a daily basis, things like sidewalks, things like park amenities,” he said. “And there’s larger issues, like public safety.
“We have lots of immigrants that are coming to Newton, which is wonderful, and we want to make sure that in Newton they’re supported as well so there’s an issue that’s around that.”
Kooner said the “biggest thing” for her is to canvass Newton residents for their concerns.
“I live in Newton, so I know what mine are, but I also don’t know everyone else’s experience.”
She noted Newton is Surrey’s most dense population, with more residents than neighbouring Delta but geographically much smaller. “It’s got 170,000 residents almost, from what I understand,” she said of Newton, while Delta’s estimated population is roughly 113,000.
Sixty-eight per cent of Newton are renters, she added.
Having grown up in Newton, Kooner has seen its population increase “but not the services.
“I know that neighbourhoods don’t really feel like neighbourhoods any more. There’s like so many cars on the street and there’s got to be ways we can basically give Newton the same that it’s been deserving like the other regions of Surrey have gotten. I’m not saying the other areas haven’t been neglected; I do see neglect in like Guilford and Cloverdale, but I feel like Newton has really taken a hit from over the past 20 years.”
Kooner suggests “professionals” might be consulted to take Newton “on the path that it needs to be on. Maybe someone like how (former Surrey mayor) Dianne Watts used for revitalizing the downtown area, maybe that’s what we need to look at.”
She suggested “maybe” some of Newton’s streets need to be designated one-way streets.
Elford said he hasn’t yet seen the terms of reference for the task force. “I just found out about it recently. I guess we’ll see the direction they’ll give, I’m not the chairperson.
“Newton’s the size of Kelowna, think about it right.”
Elford expects traffic will be identified as a main issue, as it’s “very hard” to get around in Newton. “The infrastructure, obviously, might be at the top of the agenda. I’m just guessing right now. Public safety.”
He added it’s “nice to be able to participate” on the task force, as 15 of 16 appointments to Surrey’s Select Committees of Council have been assigned to Locke’s Surrey Connect slate.
“I feel that we have been let down at all levels,” Elford said. “The Metro level, I think there’s some great experience there that has been to the side that could be helpful for Surrey. But, it’s the mayor’s choice, it’s politics, right.”
Nagra could not be reached for comment.
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