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As we reported earlier in the year, the City and property owners are currently creating an ambitious development plan for the Tynehead neighbourhood, transforming it from a rural edge of Surrey to the centre of significant density and strip malls. Although the draft plan certainly incorporates more modern elements of so-called “sustainable” urban planning, such as natural stormwater management, agricultural buffer zones, and “placemaking”, it remains fundamentally urban sprawl. Worse yet, with a major funding shortfall for the infrastructure required, citizens may end up subsidizing this sprawl!
At full build out, this “Grandview North” is expected to have between 5000 to 8000 dwelling units, translating into 14,000 to 22,400 residents! That’s roughly proportional to the growth in East Clayton. Close to half of all residential developments will be four to six storey condo buildings, with the remainder as townhomes or so-called “cluster” housing. Naturally, the population growth will necessitate three new elementary schools, as well as a “future” community centre (typical Surrey eh?).
However, the fundamental key to making the car-oriented growth possible is the expansion of transportation routes. The highway adjacent location already made the area ideal for more big-box retail and office parks. But to accommodate all those new cars, the City is proposing several major pieces of road infrastructure, including:
- the construction of a new Hwy 1 interchange at 192 St
- a new, grade-separated interchange at 176 St and Golden Ears Way
- A new overpass connecting 93 Ave over 176 St
- A new overpass that crosses Golden Ears Way, paralleling Hwy 1
Just these four major structures are estimated to cost $101 million, of which only $34.5 million would be covered by standard Development Cost Charges.
Meanwhile, building the new road network for the area will cost $242 million, with only $142 million be covered by DCCs. That leaves the transportation bill with a funding gap of well over $100 million. Whoever says we don’t subsidize cars and sprawl needs to wake right up. In the meantime, we’re wondering how to pay for transit?
There’s a growing perception in some circles in the City that “sprawl” is on the decline. What, with the Sustainability Charter and Ecosystem Management Study now directing growth policies, a majority of new housing built as multi-family instead of single-family, the promotion of “green infrastructure” in new developments such as East Clayton’s natural stormwater drainage system, and the City winning the 2008 UBCM Green City Award and 2009 Fraser Basin Council Award for Overall Sustainability, it is easy to think that Surrey “sprawl” is a thing of the past. Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth.
First, we should define what “sprawl” is. Answers.com says urban sprawl is “the unplanned, uncontrolled spreading of urban development into areas adjoining the edge of a city.” Wikipedia gives us a more specific definition based on four characteristics:
Urban sprawl, also known as suburban sprawl, is a multifaceted concept, which includes the spreading outwards of a city and its suburbs to its outskirts to low-density and auto-dependent development on rural land, high segregation of uses (e.g. stores and residential), and various design features that encourage car dependency.