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Development is Important, but Please Mind the Trees

South Surrey tree canopyAs a South Surrey realtor I can see both sides of the ongoing tree preservation debates. Another windstorm is predicted today and I look outside at the beautiful trees and an inside voice wants to chop down a few troublesome trees in my own yard. Lucky it's not easily permitted in Surrey because in a day or two I'll be back to enjoying their majesty.


Long term residents of Grandview Heights, Sunnyside Heights, Royal Heights and adjacent areas are getting calls and door knocks from both South Surrey realtors and developers from other areas. Developers are eyeing the one to five acre parcels, often with old bungalows, with a vision to knock down the existing homestead and much of the landscaping and build townhomes. These developments haven't eased off with the fall market, the buyers are still coming, according to South Surrey realtors.


The increasing prices of downtown Vancouver and the ever more unaffordable local single family homes are making townhome living more desirable. These South Surrey townhomes offer more carefree living and also often have positive lifestyle options such as amenities rooms, pools, suites for out of towners, communal gardens, childrens' playgrounds and more. The difficulty is building all these amenities while still allowing for either preservation of existing trees, or the planting of new trees that will not interfere with the use of the property.

Residents of these old homesteads are worried that the "character is being erased" according to Kelly Sinoski of the Vancouver Sun . While many are concerned about the rapidly changing neighbourhoods, others are concerned that the current infrastructure of schools and transit is not sufficient. It's a difficult adjustment to see a townhome complex with minimal landscaping where once were mature gardens and mature. There will also need to be more development to expand the infrastructure. This development must be well planned for the ongoing care of the environment, including air quality?

One of the main problems with this rapid development is the deteriorization of the tree canopy, which has already dropped more than 5% in the last 12 years. It is anticipated to drop another 7% in the next 50 years if the canopy is not properly managed.  An environmentally friendly city should have a recommended tree canopy of 40%. In 50 years the tree canopy could be down to 21% in South Surrey, that's just a smidge better than 50% of what is ideal.

Both Surrey and White Rock are trying to maintain the tree canopies by planting two trees for every one harvested. However; the falling tree canopy percentage, shows that these efforts have not been as successful as hoped. It's a difficult balance says Councillor Bruce Hayne of South Surrey. Although it's nice for people to have 1/4 or 1/2 acres lots, but "it doesn't make a sustainable community", according to Hayne.

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