A citizen’s petition with 6,845 signatures opposing a new road south of Surrey’s Bear Creek Park was not considered in a staff report Monday, prompting questions about public engagement by city hall officials.
On Monday, the Safe Surrey Coalition’s five council members outvoted four opposing councillors to extend 84 Avenue along the park’s southern edge, at a cost of $16.75 million.
On the one hand, the extension adds a continuous east-west car and transit corridor in the city and is expected to alleviate, at least temporarily, dangerous car collisions at nearby intersections. On the other hand, many local residents argue the road will impede on the park, including salmon bearing streams, which extends into a connected greenbelt under a BC Hydro corridor.
The road could be a boon for nearby developments. It is also expected to be beneficial for connecting west Surrey to the proposed SkyTrain extension.
A group of residents called Friends of Bear Creek Park submitted a petition with 6,845 signatures to city hall Monday opposing the new road, but it was not included in the staff report, on which council was to base its decision. A petition of 500 signatures in favour of the park was included in the report but only because it was submitted at the end of the public consultation process May 19.
A survey was also conducted, but it did not ask residents if they wanted the road.
“I think one question that was missing was, ‘Do you want a road or not?’ We should have a very clear question right up front,” noted Coun. Steven Pettigrew, who opposed even receiving the report.
Councillors Brenda Locke, Jack Hundial and Linda Annis also opposed the road.
“I won’t be supporting to even receive the report. I think the process around this was flawed. We should have been doing more consulting with the people in Surrey as to whether or not they want this road to go through what I consider a very iconic park,” said Annis.
Locke and Hundial joined the park group in rallies near the proposal and at city hall over the past two months.
Survey respondents were able to fill out a comment section at the end of the pages to voice additional thoughts.
According to staff, “16% of all survey respondents (496 respondents) explicitly stated opposition to the project; and 8% of all survey respondents (242 respondents) explicitly stated support for the project.”
Coun. Mandeep Negra of SSC said it would be unfair to consider the citizens’ petition as the other petitioners understood the deadline to be May 19.
Mayor Doug McCallum of the SSC agreed.
“When a deadline is given, to be fair to everybody then, we should not be receiving a petition afterwards, or we should not be accepting.”
Staff provided no explanation why the Friends of Bear Creek Park was not included in the report but said it is reviewing it.
Coun. Allison Patton said most of the people opposed to the road are from the environmental group.
According to the report, “Most of the respondents who explicitly stated opposition to the project were part of the 24% who selected environmental protection as their number one priority for the project, whereas almost all of the respondents who explicitly stated support for the project were part of the 70% of respondents who chose either road safety or traffic flow and connectivity as their top priority.”
Patton said others want the road and a suite of amenities to go along with it, such as bike paths, a new lagoon and revamped park space that sits on an old landfill.
McCallum said, “The irony is, it’s going to help the environment. They will put in a lagoon and take out the garbage dump. And so, we’re actually winning on all fronts with this road put in.”