So let it be written…
Surrey Environmental Partners president Deb Jack held a telling mirror up to city council on Monday, as she typically does during public hearings on land development applications as they relate to Mother Nature.
The lesson was particularly biting, if not embraced.
At issue was Conwest (Bear Creek) GP Ltd.’s application to rezone land from General Agriculture Zone to Business Park 3 Zone to subdivide a site at 6856 152nd Street and 15331-68th Avenue into three industrial lots and build an 8,361 square-metre building.
The application won third-reading approval from council, despite the politicians getting an earful during a public hearing why that wouldn’t be a good idea.
On April 26, Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum’s motion asking council to “stand in solidarity” with farmers in India was unanimously passed.
Jack said it’s “interesting” Surrey has been having demonstrations all over the city “with big signs talking about saving agricultural land, and the importance of food and farmers – but here in Surrey we happily take agricultural land, whether or not it’s in the Agricultural Land Reserve, and consider it land waiting to be built upon.
“An interesting contradiction, do you not think?”
Richard Landale, a Fleetwood resident, noted that roughly 20 years ago the area was all farming.
“Over time, every tree has been stripped off the land as application by application developed the land.
“When is enough, enough?” he asked, noting that the development would kill 432 mature trees.
“That is a clear cut,” he said.
“I’m in such despair.”
McCallum cut him off. The mayor cut off three speakers, all told, during this particular hearing.
Speaker Linda Joyce Ypenburg, also of Fleetwood, said she’s “adamantly” opposed to seeing agricultural land replaced by three industrial lots.
“It will destroy valuable farmland,” she said. “We don’t need another industrial park to be built on this site. You, Mayor McCallum, are in support of farmers in India – how about supporting our own farmers in Surrey? Do they not matter?”
Notably, as council considered an unrelated corporate report during this same council meeting, McCallum remarked that the city will be needing more townhouses, and soon, to accommodate what he says will be a post-pandemic wave of immigration into Surrey.
“We have a big bulge coming,” the mayor prophesied.
“There is, once COVID-19 is over, a huge build-up of immigration that is going to come to Surrey,” McCallum told his fellow council members. “Again, we do not have the supply right now to provide those housing for those people therefore the cost of housing will start to skyrocket.”
It goes without saying that while human heads need a place to rest, human mouths also need to be fed.
Anyone who’s been to their local grocery store lately knows that food is getting more and more expensive. And it won’t be getting any less expensive, or available, if our leaders keep permitting land developers to build business parks on agricultural land.
Surrey council members really should take this to heart, and make it their mission to protect this city’s farmland for today and future generations. Now that is a legacy worth voting for.
So let it be done.