Growth must be managed: Watts

Surrey has to pay close attention to managing its growth through careful planning, Mayor Dianne Watts said yesterday.

During her third State of the City address at Eaglequest Golf Course Thursday, Watts laid out her accomplishments during the past two years, and described a road map of challenges to come.

“We have a very unique opportunity in Surrey to create, shape and build a great city from the ground up,” Watts told the crowd. “We must create a framework from which all decisions are made.”

Much of that, she said, has already begun.

She outlined the accomplishments, including the creation of the Crime Reduction Strategy, which deals with homelessness, housing, drugs, addiction, mental health, education and prevention.

“They are all focused on addressing the root causes of crime,” she said.

She outlined how auto theft has been cut in half, property crime has dropped by 20 per cent and 840 marijuana grow operations were dismantled last year.

“When we unfolded our Crime Reduction Strategy, I had no idea that we would gain national and international recognition for this initiative,” she said. “As nice as the recognition for our achievements is, we still have a great deal of work to do to make this city the safest place it can be.”

Watts also the stressed the need to work with other high-growth communities through the city’s Livability Accord, a partnership between Surrey, Langley Township, Abbotsford and Coquitlam.

“These cities will absorb 65 per cent of the region’s growth over the next 25 years,” she said. “Planning for growth must start now. We have to ensure we have the capacity we need in our hospitals, that our police are adequately funded, that our roads and infrastructure can support this type of growth to ensure our quality of life is not compromised.”

She also noted the city has the potential to create as “visionary” downtown core in Whalley, and renewed her call to relocate city hall to the area.

“By relocating city hall, we will be demonstrating our faith in the future of the downtown core to investors, sending the message that not only is Surrey’s City Centre a good investment, but it is also the future of the region,” she said.

As chair of the mayors’ council on transportation, she’ll be pushing for the expansion of SkyTrain into Guildford sooner than the 2020 date set by the province.

“Surrey cannot wait until 2020 for improved rail transit,” Watts said. “At-grade (ground-level) rail can be completed much faster. I have great confidence in the potential of at-grade rail, and am currently having city staff analyze this option so we can move forward.”

She noted that much of the future development in this city will be carefully guided with the use of the yet-to-be released Sustainability Charter.

The document will lay out a framework for growth with respect to the economy, environment and social services.

“It will be a commitment from council and myself to continue changing the way we do things in the City of Surrey, to place the principles of sustainability first,” she said. “Together, we will make Surrey the best city it can be; a city for the present and future, a sustainable city that we can be proud to call home.”

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