Surrey mayor Dianne Watts issued the following open letter today (January 24), days after city council narrowly rejected a casino proposal for South Surrey:
I feel compelled to address the inflammatory public comments that have been made by BCLC CEO Michael Graydon.
The statement that “something transpired in the last few days and I don’t know what,” implies that I acted irresponsibly. The only thing that transpired was public consultation. Mr. Graydon’s comments show a complete disregard for the public process.
To state that he is “disappointed” in my actions and “if she truthfully had issues,” is crossing a line that a regulator should not cross. I did not have any issues with Gateway or the proponent. I was concerned with the public opposition, which no one can “fix”.
The facts are as follows:
1. A rezoning application came forward and I did not support 1st and 2nd reading.
2. On January 25, 2010, a public hearing occurred related to the site and the rezoning by-law in question, and the architect stated the development will be a 200 room hotel, including a restaurant. Council and the public were told:
“if the casino component does not receive a license then the convention centre would be expanded to support trade show and other such uses.” Richard Holvert, Architect; Regular Council – Public Hearing Minutes. January 25, 2010.
I supported 3rd reading of the rezoning bylaw because there was little public concern raised at that public hearing, and I knew that before a casino use could be included on the site a separate Council approval process would be required, including a separate public hearing.
3. The developer, prior to the 2010 public hearing, stated:
“But, failing to get approval for a casino from B.C. Lottery Corporation won’t be a deal-breaker... the hotel and convention centre would still proceed.” Vancouver Province, October 4, 2009.
4. The Newton bingo facility has been located in Newton for several decades, and there was considerable public support in October 2009 when the slot machines were approved. In fact, 4,273 people were in favour and only 84 opposed the project. More than 17 community organizations spoke in support, including non-profit organizations, sporting and arts groups, businesses, and social service agencies.
I, along with Council, worked with the proponent to define a project that would have the best chance for success, and serve the residents of Surrey, as we moved forward to the public consultation component of the process. Our input was intended to assist the developer, but was not approval for the project because we are committed to public consultation prior to making decisions.
If, in fact, the CEO of BCLC expected this to be fully supported, then why bother going through with the public consultation process and a public hearing that continued for 13 hours? We must ensure that we have an open and transparent process where the Mayor and Councillors can make decisions and be supported, whichever side of the issue they are on.
Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts