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Recap: Central City Town Hall Meeting

The City of Surrey recently organized a series of six Town Hall meetings throughout our communities in an effort to learn more about residents’ issues and concerns. These Town Halls are the perfect opportunity for elected officials to converse with citizens and community activists. In the past, residents of Newton and Guildford focused on issues such as crime, community and sport facilities, transportation, the Kinder Morgan pipeline extension, illegal suites, and the ward electoral system. The fifth meeting was held at City Centre Library last night where many different issues arose through conversation.

Recap: Central City Town Hall Meeting
Councillor Rasode leads the Town Hall meeting.

People are already asking that these Town Hall meetings become a regular fixture in Surrey. Councillors Rasode, Hunt, and Hayne along with Planning General Manager, Jean Lamontagne; Engineering General Manager, Vince Lalonde and a RCMP representative openly discussed all issues and shed light on some of the City’s plans with their partners.

The issue of landlords and their neglect of tenants was discussed at the start of the meeting. As in the Guildford meeting, residents called upon city officials to take more immediate action toward landlords disobeying laws and bylaws. The City stated that they are working on bylaw enforcement, communication and coordinated action with other levels of government. These elements are crucial in governing housing projects.

Recap: Central City Town Hall Meeting

A concern for Central City residents is the South Fraser Perimeter Road (SFPR) and concerns regarding trucking in the area. SFPR is a long-term issue, essentially in the hands of the Province. As a result, the City must do its best to handle the concerns about this project voiced by residents. The Councillors reiterated that the City is working hard to free the streets of trucks and address tolling issues. According to Engineering GM Lalonde, municipal administration is advocating provincial wide tolling and different models of toll collection. Lalonde’s statement was a part of the answer to a question from Grant Rice, a very active community member who inquired about the provincial plan for tolling the new Port Mann Bridge.

There were questions about rezoning, funds from developers for more access roads, sidewalks and other much needed facilitations. The time required to put the funds into action and see results depends upon a variety of factors. According to GM Lalonde, the timeframe is unpredictable and the City faces long waiting periods for developers to complete projects and give money to the City. The only other alternative is to use City funds to complete projects on time. Lalonde confidently stated the City of Surrey is committed to do whatever necessary to prevent future problems.

Transit, transit, transit! An eternal Surrey plea. The issue of public transit is always a popular one when residents and elected officials meet in a forum. Councillor Marvin Hunt regularly addresses the questions and concerns related to transit, however GM Lalonde provided further insights on the issues as well. Issues regarding Transit seem to be on-going and remain unresolved for the City and the Province. King George Blvd is not considered a transit, community or business friendly area. Options exist for a great public transit network but this area is neglected and rarely receives funding from Translink‘s budget. Residents of the Central City area are requesting improvements to the current access to transit.

Recap: Central City Town Hall Meeting
Councillors Barinder Rasode and Bruce Hayne address the crowd.

Illegal suites, and the use of pesticides were topics brought up in the meeting.  Council stated its strong devotion to tackle these issues quickly and economically. One young Surrey resident asked the Councillors and GM’s why they were not developing the Bridgeview area. Jean Lamontagne, Planning GM, assured that Bridgeview will soon be their focus. Plans for Central City and Guildford are in process to be finalized. Bridgeview will be the next community to undergo some much needed development. “We don’t want to rush with anything,” said Lamontagne, adding that he acknowledged peoples’ frustration. He assured that funds and needs are being carefully considered.

Residents in the room and on Twitter asked why Mayor Dianne Watts was not present. Due to an unforeseen circumstance she was unable to attend. She is expected to attend the final Town Hall meeting in Fleetwood on Tuesday, May 1st and a virtual meeting scheduled for June. Many who have attended the meetings hope that the Mayor and Council will continue with the practice of future Town Hall meetings. Much appreciation to Councillor Rasode who created this project to increase communications with Surrey’s citizens.

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Esmir Milavic
Born in Bosnia, Esmir’s interests are in journalism, politics, communications, history, culture, sports, books and technology. He has contributed to some of the most innovative independent media projects to come out of Bosnia and Herzegovina. One of the earliest members of Surrey604, Esmir now resides in Sarajevo working with Bosnian FACE TV.
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