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
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.
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.