SURREY — If you build it, they will come. But what if it hasn't been built, and yet, they come?
That's the dilemma Surrey is faced with, and has been for years, when it comes to commercial truck parking stock within the city's limits.
There are roughly 6,000 trucks weighing more than 5,000 kilograms registered in Surrey, according to vehicle registration data.The City of Surrey says of those, 2,400 park at a business, 2,312 on Temporary Use Permit (TUP) sites, 300 on the Agricultural Land Reserve, 1,000 are otherwise illegally parking.
"We certainly do have a significant number of owner-operators that appear to be residing in Surrey," said Coun. Tom Gill, chair of the city's transportation and infrastructure committee.The issue has been top of mind for him for more than eight years, he added.
In Surrey, truck parking facilities are permitted on lands that are zoned light impact industrial (LI) and heavy impact industrial (HI) zones.
Temporary permits help address the shortfall of spaces in the city, allowing trucks to temporarily park on a property not zoned as IL or HI.
According to Gill, a big problem in creating permanent spots is that development and servicing costs are substantially higher than the cost of a temporary permit, which are given for three years and can often be extended to six.
"It's night and day," Gill said of the difference between the costs.
"A lot of the property owners are not in a position to make the improvements required to bring the space up to a standard that would not otherwise need a TUP," he said.
Such standards include a washroom facility, oil collectors and generally, such sites would be paved.
"Given the costs associated to connecting to sewer and other costs, most have opted out not to do it," he explained.
"The majority of the spots we do have, they're interim uses. The concern I have over time is that as these sites gets developed, these spots are going to be pushed out."
In an effort to relieve the problem, the city has streamlined the TUP process, sent 6,000 mailers out encouraging industrial property owners to consider using surplus land for parking, and in 2008 hired a Truck Parking Co-ordinator to work with the industry.
Asked if the City of Surrey would consider tax breaks or subsidies for those interested in creating permanent parking stock, Gill said it should be the province that does so.
"They spend billions on new bridges and South Fraser Perimeter Road and say it's for the trucks, but the thing I always laugh about is... where are these trucks supposed to park?" Gill said in a meeting at city hall late last year with Transportation Minister Todd Stone, he was given assurance that the province's next 10-year transportation plan will include strategic opportunities for truck parking.
He said he'll be watching for the plan's release in late February.
"This is the first time the province has recognized the issue, so that's good," he stated.
"We need to figure out a way of encouraging investment in a permanent truck parking location at a location that's going to be appreciated in terms of truck routes," Gill said.
The transportation ministry has hired a consultant to aid in a review of potential solutions, which include potentially utilizing lands along South Fraser Perimeter Road for truck parking.In the meantime, Gill said he's encouraged city staff to "help fast-track" permanent truck parking applications that come forward.
Manny Dhillon, a member of the United Truckers Association, said there is definitely a need for truck parking in the city, and it's a constant struggle.
"We've been pushing this for a long time," he told the Now.
"Even in the election this came up."
"There's not much the city can do to crack down on them. People are using them because the city doesn't have available parking," Dhillon said. "You can't blame the truckers."
Bob Campbell, past president of the West Panorama Ratepayers Association, said theissue of illegal parking has been "widely abused," adding he believes "the city has been incredibly slow to react."
He said in some cases the violation is "blatant and clear."
Campbell told the Now he believes "there's a strategy in Surrey to buy agricultural land to use for business purposes outside of agriculture."
He has concerns about the lasting effects of heavy-duty vehicles being stored on agricultural land.
"There's obviously oil leaks, who knows what level of maintenance and fluid discharge. All these things they could be doing on property, which are normal for a trucking company," he said.
"In addition it's agricultural land. It's supposed to be used for growing food."And if someone is using property illegally, do you assume doing all the right environmental things at the same time? Probably not."
He also questions how viable environmental land would be after it's suffered damaged, and questioned if it would even be possible to restore it for agricultural purposes.Campbell said companies using properties illegally also have an unfair advantage in the industry.
"It creates an environment of cheating, to be honest with you. It's kind of like traffic speed enforcement. If there's never any enforcement, then everyone thinks they can get away with it."
Campbell said residents on the ridge are diligent about reporting violations to the city.
"We're pretty good in that we're on them all the time. Everyone complains. We've set a precedent that when there is illegal parking... we're going to get on it."
In 2012, the WPRA voiced its frustrations about a piece of farmland they said was being used for just this, members claiming they'd seen as many as 30 heavy duty vehicles on the site at one time.
The company, Keywest Ashpalt, told the Now at the time that the trucks were there because the company recently sold a truck park property and were temporarily using that property because "there's a huge shortage of truck parking spaces in Surrey."
Jas Rehal, Surrey's bylaw enforcement manager, said the truck parking matter simply comes down to the issue of supply and demand, adding the city takes complaints about trucks parked on ALR land seriously.
According to Rehal, the City of Surrey has six such cases going through the courts.When it comes to illegal parking outside of the ALR, he said the city works with truckers to try to move the vehicles to legal spots, if available.
"But at the end of the day, if there are 10 or 15 trucks parked in a neighbourhood and residents are concerned, we take that seriously," Rehal said.