When Surrey’s Mayor and council decided to launch the Alternative Approval Process (AAP) they ignored several provincial guidelines which include avoiding its use in the summer months or when the proposed project is controversial. The thousands of opponents of the city’s plan to remove Hawthorne Park’s protected status now need to inspire 30,372 citizens to fill in their Electoral Response Forms prior to the Sept. 22nd deadline.
This proposal does not consider the principles and objectives of the Sustainability Charter, the Biodiversity Conservation Strategy nor Surrey’s Transportation Strategy. The Engineering Department is fast tracking this road-building project without proper traffic analyses, impacts to properties and the neighbouring school, air quality and noise pollution, site drainage and water table impacts.
The isolation of the large portion of forest is not taken into consideration. Neither has loss and fragmentation of wildlife habitat, Riparian Area Regulations, the affect on the Red-coded Creek, and species at risk. The value of undisturbed park and forest space to human health has been ignored.
Please help us save Hawthorne Park by filling in your Electoral Response Form. We need to protect our Surrey parks by taking a stand and insisting that council hold a referendum on all park dedication removals.
Alternative Approval Process (AAP) Explained
The counter-petition process was originally introduced by the Social Credit government in the 1960’s to allow local governments to bypass referenda. The intent was to speed up the ability of local governments to borrow for large capital endeavours like park acquisitions or infrastructure projects. Originally set at 10% it was lowered to 5% in 1968, where it stayed until 2004.
The Alternative Approval Process (AAP), the replacement for the counter petition process, was introduced by the BC Liberals with the enactment of the Community Charter. As part of a larger plan to reduce “red tape”, the threshold was raised from 5% to 10%. By raising the bar to 10% of registered electors, local governments can now avoid referenda quite easily.
In Surrey’s case, the 10%, or 30,327 response forms, represents 29% of the 104 thousand electors that voted in the last municipal election. The current council last used the AAP in 2015 to remove the dedication of Bonnie Shrenk Park. The purpose was to allow a passive wooded area to be rededicated for future playing fields. In this case council wants to build a road that the community doesn’t want right through Hawthorne Park.
Surrey citizens need to send Mayor and council a message that if they wish to remove park dedications, they must hold a referendum. Council should not use this loophole in the provincial legislation, especially in the summer when many people are away on vacation.
While collecting over 30,000 response forms may seem impossible, we can take some inspiration from the citizens of Victoria. In 2010 the City of Victoria initiated the AAP to try and gain “assent” to borrow money for the Johnson Street Bridge replacement project. The AAP required 6,343 response forms and the citizens responded by collecting 9,872. The city went back to the drawing board and embarked on a proper consultation process with its residents.
Surrey’s Mayor and council are relying on advice from the City’s Transportation Engineers who are determined to put a road thru Hawthorne Park. Information presented to the public at the one open house contained incomplete and biased information. There is no truly objective environmental assessment. Many of the requirements that city imposes on private land developers have been ignored in this proposal.
The City did not produce a traffic analyses, examine the impact on neighbouring properties, or consider the consequences of noise and air pollution to nearby residents and schools. The Corporate Reports do not consider the appropriate principles and objectives of the Sustainability Charter or the Biodiversity Conservation Strategy.
Wetland & Bog
Most of the area slated for the 105 Ave Connector is wetland areas and bog. These areas are connected to creeks that are protected under Riparian Area Regulation (RAR.) Before any development occurs the City of Surrey must first provide a Detailed Assessment and mitigation plans. This would be virtually impossible with a road, especially with the new proposal to dig out the wetland and peat. Any disturbance of peatlands is also a factor in climate change. This undermines the Surrey sustainability goal to “Manage biodiversity proactively to mitigate the impacts of climate change”.
The wetland/bog in the Park is protected. A proper assessment is required and a Streamside Protection and Enhancement Area must be determined. This only covers the fish habitat protection and does not consider other important natural attributes for wildlife. The City must comply with the RAR. This will also impact the 6 private lots to the south of the proposed road as the creek begins a considerable distance back towards 104 into the wetland area of these properties.
Loss of Tree Canopy
The city reports that the acquisition of several properties to compensate for the loss of trees for the 105 Avenue Connector will enhance the biodiversity in the Park. At the same time, they are suggesting that most of the existing trees are in poor health or structural condition. The environmental consultants also expect “there will be quite a few trees growing adjacent to the future road that will have to be removed for risk reasons.”
The information boards at the public consultation meeting mention Forsyth Park as an example that highlights the city’s commitment to green spaces. This new park, just west of Hawthorne Park, has been extensively logged in that past couple of weeks. The info boards go on to mention the city’s record on planting street trees while ignoring the number of mature forests that cleared throughout the city. Surrey should be saving our currently treed areas by adding more mature trees to the inventory which better meets the call for biodiversity and carbon capture.
An expose by Kevin Diakiw in a March 2017 issue of the Surrey Now Leader underscores the extent of Surrey’s tree canopy loss.
Figures obtained at the request of The Leader indicate Surrey issued permits to cut 9,893 trees in 2016 – a jump of 1,333 from the year prior. In fact, over the last seven years, tree cuts have been climbing steadily, from 4,662 in 2009 to this year’s figure, which represents a jump of 112 per cent. Research shows a canopy of 40 per cent indicates one aspect of being an environmentally friendly city. Surrey falls short of that and heading in the wrong direction. In 2001, 33 per cent of Surrey was covered by tree canopy, the report shows. By 2009, that dropped to 30 per cent and four years later the number had sunk to 27.17 per cent.
Wildlife Habitat & Fish Populations
The construction of the 105 Avenue connector will lead to the loss and fragmentation of wildlife habitat, the lack of adherence to the Riparian Area Regulations, and the negative affect on the Red-coded Creek and species at risk. Some potential species at risk may include the Red-Legged Frog and Pacific Water Shrew. The city has not addressed any of these concerns that environmental groups have brought to their attention.
There are significant legislated requirements that are missing from the city’s corporate reports and the information they shared with the public. Diamond Head Consulting reported that These stream (Hawthorne and Bonaccord Creeks) support fish populations; however, the quality of habitat is not high due to their relatively straight alignment and lack of in stream complexity. By launching the Hawthorne Park Master Plan along with the 105 Ave Connector plan, the city has chosen to tie any habitat improvements for those streams to the public’s acceptance of a road through the park.
City staff are implying that the purchase of compensating properties would improve the stream habitat within the park. How that can be accomplished by putting a road through the park is unclear. The Sustainability Charter specifically mentions the interconnection between natural areas and habitat corridors in creating healthy places. The value of undisturbed park and forest space to human health has also been ignored in city reports.
Justification for the 105 Avenue Connector project depends on which corporate report you read, which staff member or Councillor you talk to, or which story line is being used to promote the project. Community members around the park are told the road is needed to provide better access to the park and for them to be better able to enter and exit their neighbourhoods. The broader community has been told that the road is needed to complete a network that was conceived in 1986.
City transportation planners must be aware that you can’t build yourself out of congestion. Urban planners have argued for decades that when you build more road capacity you create induced demand. New roads create new drivers and induce more trips by car. In very quick order, these new roads are gridlocked. Then what, a 106 Avenue Connector through the north end of the park?
The city’s planned LRT project for 104th is intended to reduce our dependence upon cars yet this new corridor is essentially intended to provide for car dependency into the future. There have been no publicly available traffic studies that make a case for the 105 Avenue connector, a road that was planned over 30 years ago.
Finally, what about the children playing in the park? It’ human nature to try and find the quickest route and short-cutting through neighbourhoods to avoid congestion is inevitable. Impatient drivers constantly speed through park and school zones. The proposed road will come within 50 metres of a popular playground and water park. How can the city contemplate putting a road through Hawthorne Park?