COLUMN: Time for the greening of city council

Surrey is currently undergoing a process to create a new logo and marketing identity for the municipality – something I think is long overdue. Frankly, Surrey has never deserved the moniker “City of Parks.”

Through decades of the city’s history, there has been a constant battle between the interests of environment and residents versus the developers. Among former mayor Doug McCallum’s legacies is a disregard for nature stemming from his “development at any cost” attitude.

Surrey residents were promised a more careful, prudent approach to development under Mayor Dianne Watts – but so far, her promise has been a lot of hot air.

In fact, in 2007, Surrey hit a new record for building permits valued at almost $1.5 billion. That’s up from $1.36 billion in 2006, and a continuation of approximately four years of a building boom in the city.

Citizens don’t need the numbers to realize that the city is being paved over faster than ever before. Just take a look at large former suburban lots in northwest Cloverdale, south Newton, or in Fleetwood down the Fraser Highway. These properties are being wiped clean of almost any wilderness and townhomes are being put up as fast as they can be built.

Despite the overhaul of the tree bylaw, which calls for a tree replacement ratio of two to one, the city is only achieving a 1.4 to one ratio. Not to mention the fact it will take generations for any of the trees planted today to reach the height of those being chopped down.

Several weeks ago, a teacher at Bridgeview Elementary had her students create a future vision for Surrey. Development, the destruction of the environment, and a lack of park space were issues that continuously came up. If Grade 5 students can understand the simple concept of sustainable development, why can’t Surrey council?

In this era of climate change, is council making the tough decisions to support the protection of green spaces and old growth trees, and taking a smarter, more selective approach to development – development that will increase the livability of the city and the happiness of current and future residents?

I say no.

Expect this long-time issue to come back into the spotlight in November for the municipal election.

Let’s see what our politicians’ excuses are then.

Paul Hillsdon is an 18-year-old student at Surrey Connect. Check out more of his opinions at www.paulhillsdon.com

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