A large area of rural land in South Surrey could soon have a land-use change that would allow for development.
Metro Vancouver's planning committee recommended a change in the region's urban containment boundary on Friday, which would turn the designation of 160 hectares of land from "rural" to "mixed employment."
The City of Surrey asked Metro Vancouver for the change in July, after a council vote and contentious public hearing.
The area is directly south of the Campbell Heights industrial business park at the border between Surrey and Langley. The Surrey Board of Trade has argued it could create more than 20,000 jobs in the region, and said 135 businesses have expressed interest in moving into the area if developed.
Local rezoning requires regional approval
But any rezoning requires approval by Metro Vancouver, because the land falls outside Surrey's urban containment boundary, intended to preserve agricultural and undeveloped areas.
That provided a number of Surrey environmental groups an opportunity to lobby a new group of politicians who they hoped would be more sympathetic to the loss of rural land.
"To look at what we're doing as a species on this planet, this scorched earth policy that we've had ever since we emerged from the caves, it needs to come to an end at a certain point," said Port Moody Mayor Rob Vagramov.
"What is the limit on the human footprint if we're just going to extend the human footprint? What is the point of a boundary if the boundary is just going to move?"
However, committee chair and New Westminster Mayor Jonathan Coté noted that Metro Vancouver had designated the area as a "special study area" that could be considered for development.
Other members of the committee noted the new proposal by Surrey had less residential space and more conservation lands than a 2018 proposal rejected by Metro Vancouver, and that it was important to consider the desires of the local government.
"This has gone through a very rigorous process at the City of Surrey," said Port Coquitlam Mayor Brad West.
"Their council has voted in favour of this, and that weighs heavily in my mind."
A vote by the full Metro Vancouver board is scheduled for Oct. 29, with a final decision early next year.