Environmentalists in Surrey have won a key battle in their war against the City of Surrey to prevent a new road from being built along the south side of Bear Creek Park.
On Monday, BC Supreme Court Justice Heather MacNaughton ruled in favour of an interim injunction application by Force of Nature Society, Sebastian Sajda and Annie Kaps to prevent construction of a $16.75 million extension of 84 Avenue east of King George Boulevard.
MacNaughton ordered the City of Surrey to stop nearly all work and halt any further cutting of trees after contractors had already cut 13 while the proceeding was ongoing.
The society is petitioning the court to block the city from building the road, as they claim the land south of the proposed roadway is designated as park and such a road would do irreparable harm to the environment.
A judge will hear the petition October 14. Until then ,there is no chance for the city to rush construction.
“At this point in the process, we’re quite happy with how the court has decided this issue,” said Sajda, president of Force of Nature and an organizer with Friends of Bear Creek Park in an online statement.
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 city had argued it needed to start work quickly to work within a timeframe set by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans for construction around salmon-bearing streams.
MacNaughton disagreed, however. She stated a two-month delay was not a serious inconvenience and costs are insignificant.
And MacNaughton expressed concern about the 13 cut trees and specifically ordered no further cuts until the petition is fully addressed in court.
Furthermore, MacNaughton disagreed with the city’s argument that the society was being vexatious and frivolous; rather, the judge saw serious questions pertaining to the legal status of the lands south of what the city deems the border of Bear Creek Park.
Sajda argued two city-owned properties south of the park are recorded as “park – city purchased” and notes Surrey’s COSMOS online mapping system refers to the land as park. Sajda also argues there are no barriers or demarcations distinguishing the properties from the park; in essence, the land is part of Bear Creek Park.
If the southern land is ruled as park, the city must go through a much more time-intensive process to build the road. To this point, the road project was only approved by a majority of council (Mayor Doug McCallum’s Safe Surrey Coalition) on Feb. 22 and without prior public consultation.
The court ruling noted the road has been proposed three times in the past — in 2000, 2007 and 2009 — and each time it faced significant public opposition.
Coun. Doug Elford proposed the road on Feb.22, wanting the project moved up from the 5-10 year scheduled infrastructure plan.
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.