Sur­rey puts mo­bile-home park re­de­vel­op­ment on hold

SE­NIORS’ FA­CIL­ITY: Coun­cil seeks to put in place ‘strong’ by­law to pro­tect res­i­dents of mo­bile-home park

The Province - - Front Page - DAN FUMANO THE PROVINCE dfu­[email protected]­p­rovince.com twit­ter.com/fumano

Sur­rey city coun­cil wants to de­lay the pro­posed re­de­vel­op­ment of a mo­bile-home park un­til it can put in place a strong by­law to pro­tect res­i­dents who may be forced out.

While con­cerned mo­bile-home ten­ants ral­lied Mon­day out­side city hall, coun­cil­lors in­side de­ferred the next stage of the re­zon­ing of Park Mo­bile, a com­mu­nity of about 40 mo­bile homes.

Mean­while, the MLA rep­re­sent­ing Park Mo­bile’s res­i­dents says as the pace of de­vel­op­ment es­ca­lates in B.C.’s sec­ond-largest city, she hopes the city’s most vul­ner­a­ble don’t get run over on the road to progress.

WestS­tone Group, a Sur­rey devel­oper, bought the 9525 King Ge­orge Blvd. prop­erty ear­lier this year and ap­plied to re­de­velop the site into a $250-mil­lion se­niors’ fa­cil­ity called In­no­va­tion Vil­lage.

The pro­ject’s public hear­ing was ten­ta­tively slated for mid-July, but at Mayor Linda Hep­ner’s sug­ges­tion Mon­day, coun­cil de­cided to de­fer the hear­ing un­til the fall so the city can re­view the sit­u­a­tion and put the by­law in place.

Coun. Judy Vil­leneuve said coun­cil will look to the pro­posed re­de­vel­op­ment “to be a model pro­ject.”

The pro­posed pro­ject is in the area known as In­no­va­tion Boule­vard, de­scribed on the Sur­rey mu­nic­i­pal web­site as “a net­work of health in­sti­tu­tions, univer­si­ties, com­pa­nies and highly qual­i­fied peo­ple lo­cated within one square mile in Sur­rey’s City Cen­tre.”

Sue Ham­mell, NDP MLA for Sur­rey-Green Tim­bers, said: “The no­tion of try­ing to build a high-tech cor­ri­dor is a very good thing for the city … But as you do that, you have to be care­ful where your foot steps — and who’s un­der it.”

The Park Mo­bile sit­u­a­tion, Ham­mell said, is part of a big­ger re­gional “cri­sis” of the “de­struc­tion of af­ford­able hous­ing.” Ham­mell said she be­lieves WestS­tone will treat the cur­rent Park Mo­bile res­i­dents with re­spect, and work hard with city staff to man­age the tran­si­tion and re­lo­cate res­i­dents.

But Ham­mell sym­pa­thizes with the mo­bile home­own­ers, an is­sue she said is of­ten chal­leng­ing: “You have this sit­u­a­tion where they own their home and they don’t own the land. Then some­body buys the land and re­de­vel­ops, and where do these peo­ple go?”

WestS­tone vice-pres­i­dent Bob Do­minick said the com­pany is do­ing ev­ery­thing it can to fairly com­pen­sate the res­i­dents and help with re­lo­ca­tion. “We will be be­yond fair in their re­lo­ca­tion process,” Do­minick said. “We sin­cerely have their fu­tures in our hearts. We’re not a heart­less com­pany.”

In­no­va­tion Vil­lage would “cater to thou­sands of peo­ple in the North Sur­rey com­mu­nity” and is “badly needed,” Do­minick said.

“There’s al­ways peo­ple that are un­happy, and there are peo­ple that are happy. So it’s a dif­fi­cult one,” he said. “We’ve had to walk that tightrope many, many times with land de­vel­op­ment. But with­out walk­ing that tightrope, noth­ing would ever move for­ward.”

Many of the park’s res­i­dents are on dis­abil­ity ben­e­fits or old age pen­sions. Oth­ers are low-in­come fam­i­lies.

Paul McDer­mott, who has lived in the park for 15 years, said he feels they’ve been “rail­roaded.”

“I’m wor­ried, I’m up­set and I’m anx­ious,” he said. “You lose sleep over this.”

McDer­mott’s room­mate, Chris­tine Bublitz, who is legally blind, asked: “Where are we go­ing to go?”

Tina White­sell moved into the park seven years ago, where she’s rais­ing her two kids as a sin­gle mother. White­sell, who has cere­bral palsy, said her neigh­bours help her and her kids out when they need it, adding: “We are like one big happy fam­ily here.”

WestS­tone re­cently dis­trib­uted pack­ages to res­i­dents de­tail­ing dif­fer­ent com­pen­sa­tion and re­lo­ca­tion op­tions.

Next week, WestS­tone will open a site of­fice at the park, Do­minick said, and the firm will soon con­duct one-on-one in­ter­views with res­i­dents.

MARK VAN MA­NEN/PNG

Chris­tine Bublitz, who is legally blind, and Paul McDer­mott stand out­side their mo­bile home in Sur­rey on Mon­day. They say they’re wor­ried about be­ing re­lo­cated from their home to make way for a new se­niors’ fa­cil­ity.

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