Opinion

COLUMN: Preserve the environment

The Campbell Heights development is again making headlines.

It’s not like there were no concerns raised about the initial plans to put an industrial park in the far southeast corner of Surrey, near 192 Street and 24 Avenue. It’s just that no one in authority was listening.

The public wasn’t even listening – an attempt to slow down or stop the project with a counter petition went nowhere, largely because it is almost impossible to collect enough signatures on a petition in a city the size of Surrey. Attempts to make the development an election issue in 2002 also fizzled.

Then-mayor Doug McCallum and the majority of council were absolutely convinced that the development was needed. They were so convinced that the city did far more that it will do for any developer – it expedited municipal services, sold land at below-market prices, hustled development applications and apparently looked the other way on occasions when environmental problems surfaced.

Campbell Heights was earmarked for indus trial use many years ago. Some of the land in the area was actually assembled by the provincial government back in the days of the Dave Barrett government when there was a short-lived plan for an oil refinery – one that met with much opposition.

The drawback was always municipal services. There was no water or sewer service within miles of the development.

The Surrey Electors Team-dominated council decided that it made sense to extend those services many miles down 192 Street, at a huge cost. It did so because it wanted Surrey to have a broader base of industrial lands – to provide jobs and a higher tax base for the city.

There’s nothing wrong with those sentiments. However, those things should not come at the expense of the environment. There is no question that Campbell Heights has had a negative impact on the Little Campbell River – a point again emphasized at a public meeting last week.

However, some things have changed since the development was pushed ahead five years ago. The current council will definitely think through the environmental side of the equation a little more thoroughly. It has to – the evidence of not doing so is there in front of it.

There has also been a significant mood shift among the public and some council members. Surrey is preparing to lay out a Sustainability Charter, and the charter won’t mean a thing if development like the first phase of Campbell Heights occurs again.

The environmental community is also on high alert this time. While there were warnings before, few heeded them. This time, the public are much more receptive to those warnings.

Any development that does take place in Campbell Heights must not damage the environment. If damage to tributaries of the river is part of the development plan, it cannot go ahead.

Members of the public need to keep a close eye on Campbell Heights plans this year, as a municipal election approaches.

Campbell Heights, despite the damage done, still has an environment rich in wildlife and plant species, and is very important to the overall health of the Little Campbell. That must not be destroyed.

newsroom@langleytimes.com

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