Test case for green protection in Delta’s Burns Bog under Regional Growth Strategy? — Student presents facts on MK Delta Lands mega-development proposal

Wirsching, MKDLG, Metro Van, 5-Jul-2013, fig 7(Updated. IMPORTANT: MetroVanWatch sees this request from the Corporation of Delta as a potential test case for how the newly-minted Regional Growth Strategy functions when conservation and agricultural land is threatened by urban sprawl and encroachment. Watch carefully to see how this topic unfolds, which parties say what, how the matters are presented, and what is the eventual outcome.)

On July 5, 2013, sustainable agriculture student Eric Wirsching, from Kwantlen Polytechnic University, took the personal initiative to make a presentation for Metro Vancouver’s (the GVRD) Regional Planning and Agriculture Committee meeting. Citing expert sources, he asserts that ecological impact studies for flora and fauna have not yet been properly completed for a development proposed to create 1,000 residential units and up to 430,000 square feet of commercial floor area on Burns Bog. This is contrary to the findings of a major developer and the Corporation of Delta. 

Eric has kindly shared his presentation with us. (Please see below for text and images, plus additional info). Our society needs more people like him, who take the personal initiative to promote fact-based dialogue among all the players about the future of our region.

What is this all about? The MK Delta Lands Group is proposing to develop 36 hectares (89 acres) near the intersection of Highway 91 and 72nd Avenue in Delta. The company’s website provides absolutely no information about who is behind the corporate screen — not a single word about who are its principals or its ownership. To support the developer, the Corporation of Delta is requesting that the Metro Vancouver Board make a “Type 2” Regional Growth Strategy (RGS) amendment to expand the “Urban Containment Boundary” and change the designation of land in Burns Bog from “Conservation and Recreation” to “General Urban.” The Burns Bog Conservation Society has been fighting to protect this fragile and ecologically precious area for decades, yet had received no formal notification of the July 5 meeting. The Society has collected over 5000 signatures opposing the development.

These two YouTube videos show Wirsching’s main presentation, and the brief Q&A session afterward. Further below are his transcript and presentation images.

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Presentation by Eric Wirsching to Metro Vancouver’s Regional Planning and Agriculture Committee meeting, July 5, 2013

My name is Eric Wirsching, I am a student at Kwantlen University.  I will refer mainly to the Burns Bog Ecosystem Review led by Richard Hebda in 2000, and the recent study done by Robertson Environmental Services in support of development.

Wirsching, MKDLG, Metro Van, 5-Jul-2013, fig 1

(Figure 1) The blue areas surrounding Burns Bog are owned by the MK Delta Lands Group (MKDLG). The far right hand bolded property is the area proposed for development.

Wirsching, MKDLG, Metro Van, 5-Jul-2013, fig 2

(Figure 2) These two outlined, shaded properties as well as a 300 meter perimeter were included in the Robertson study. The left hand parcel has been termed Highway 91 West and the right hand parcel as 10770 72nd avenue. (Sloboda et al., 2013)

Under strategy 3.1.2 of the Regional Growth Strategy, Metro Vancouver’s Role is to identify, secure and enhance habitat… and buffer, where feasible, park and conservation areas from activities in adjacent areas.”  (Metro Vancouver et al. 2011, p. 34) These lands are an existing buffer between North Delta and Burns Bog, and are inferred to be important to the Sandhill Crane. “The main breeding and foraging areas plus a buffer are required for the viability of the Greater Sandhill Cranes in the Bog.” (Hebda et al. 2000, p. 240).

Wirsching, MKDLG, Metro Van, 5-Jul-2013, fig 3


(Figure 3) 
213 hours of survey time was spent observing or attempting to observe Sandhill Cranes in the Robertson study, equaling approximately one quarter of the total survey time for the entire Bio-Inventory. Cranes were detected in a location approximately 1 kilometer west of Highway 91 on eleven occasions (Sloboda et al., 2013).

Wirsching, MKDLG, Metro Van, 5-Jul-2013, fig 4

(Figure 4) This location is deemed to be of moderately suitable foraging habitat” (Sloboda et al. 2013, p. 71). This development it seems would be an encroachment on the existing buffer between North Delta and Sandhill Crane foraging areas.

Most notably absent from the Robertson study are any at-risk mammal or ecological community specific site surveys. They used existing literature in their report to suggest what might appear there today. (Sloboda et al., 2013). However, the studies cited were not concentrated specifically on the parcels in question and may not provide the detailed information necessary to rule out the presence of red listed mammals or plant communities.

In attempted compensation, Robertson Environmental conducted habitat suitability ratings within the 10770 lands for some species that are likely to occur in Burns Bog. They did not or could not determine ratings for 4 mammal species at risk, two of which are red listed, one of which is endangered. However they did determine suitability ratings for 8 specific species. 7 out of the 8 species are listed, and 2 of those 7 are red listed: the Pacific Water Shrew and the Southern Red Backed Vole.
Wirsching, MKDLG, Metro Van, 5-Jul-2013, fig 5

(Figure 5) With regards to the Pacific Water Shrew, highly rated habitat was found within 10770 72nd avenue. (Sloboda et al., 2013) “Habitat use by this shrew within much of the study area is probably seasonal”  (Sloboda et al. 2013, p. 72)


Wirsching, MKDLG, Metro Van, 5-Jul-2013, fig 6

(Figure 6) With regards to the Southern Red Backed Vole: A small area of moderate-high suitability habitat… occurs within the 10770 Lands”. (Sloboda et al. 2013, p. 73) This ‘small’ section occupies approximately one tenth of the 89 acre parcel. I want to put this in context with a quote from the Burns Bog Ecosystem Review: “Wherever red-backed voles are found in future studies in the Bog, those areas must be considered as areas required for ecological viability.” (Hebda et al. 2000, p. 204) “The undisturbed areas outside the water mound have less value to ecological viability [of the Bog] because they are no longer supported by the hydrologic processes of the mound. They may, however, support red- or blue-listed species and must be assessed for this ecological value.” (Hebda et al. 2000, p. 224)

The absence of this vole species has not been suggested. With no land surveys done for mammals, and seeing suitable habitat present, I would argue that proper assessment is not completed at this time.

Wirsching, MKDLG, Metro Van, 5-Jul-2013, fig 7

(Figure 7) Although the newly revised concept plan of this project seems to avoid building on this suitable habitat area all together, there will undoubtedly be a period of years where construction noises routinely disturb it. The post construction effects on this habitat are unknown. Only if there were no permanent effects to the habitat, and ensuing isolation from low rated habitat was not an issue, would the red backed vole even stand a chance in successfully repopulating this area. To strengthen my point, here is a quote from a study done by Gliwicz and Glowacka (2000): In regenerating forests in North America, [the deer mouse] replace [the southern red-backed vole], and the latter disappears almost completely from the forest community for many years.” (Gliwicz et al. 2000, p. 2). Any change in vegetation and available foods could hinder the vole’s ability to successfully forage, whereas the deer mouse typically has no trouble finding alternate food sources and therefore out competes the vole (Gliwicz et al., 2000).

Due to time constraints I have left out many other concerns that I have regarding lack of information on blue and red listed animal species and especially the listed plant communities. Please consider the gathering of further information for proper assessment before it is determined whether a Type 2 Amendment is appropriate. Thank You.

REFERENCES

Corporation of Delta. (2013). Delta’s Regional Context Statement (Draft). Not published, available upon request of the Delta Municipal Clerk (604) 946- 3220

Gliwicz, J. Glowacka, B. (2000). Differential responses of Clethrionomys species to forest disturbance in Europe and North America. National Research Council Canada.

Hebda, R.J., K. Gustafson, G.K. Golinski and A.M. Calder. (2000). Burns Bog Ecosystem Review Synthesis Report. Environmental Assessment Office, Province of British Columbia.

Metro Vancouver. (2011). Regional Growth Strategy, Bylaw No. 1136, 2010. Vancouver 2040 Shaping our Future. Retrieved July 3rd 2013 from: http://www.metrovancouver.org/planning/development/strategy/Pages/default.aspx

Sloboda, S., Barton, K., Sands, N., … Skydt, P. (2013). 10770 – 72nd Avenue, Highway 91 West, and Adjacent Lands Baseline Bio-Inventory Report 2008, 2009, and 2012 in Support of Rezoning Application Final Report. Robertson Environmental Ltd. Retrieved June 20th 2013 from: http://www.delta.ca/EN/main/municipal/323/27003/mklands.html#documents.

PHOTOS

HB Lanarc Consultants Ltd. (2013). Environmental Baseline Report Figures. Robertson Environmental Services Ltd. Retrieved on July 3rd from: http://www.delta.ca/EN/main/municipal/323/27003/mklands.html

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ADDITIONAL MATERIAL FROM METROVANWATCH

See this link below for a five-minute summary on YouTube of how the RGS could be bad news for the Metro Vancouver region, based on experience of former GVRD staffer and Vancouver City Councillor David Cadman.

Five minute summary of what’s wrong with the RGS

For previous MetroVanWatch posts on this development application, please see

We note from the July 5, 2013 agenda documents (page 356/425) that the Corporation of Delta has not yet submitted a Regional Context Statement to Metro Vancouver under the Regional Growth Strategy, but has a Public Hearing slated for July 30, 2013, and submission to Metro Vancouver is expected in August. This is later than the legislated July 29 deadline.

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For readers’ convenience, MetroVanWatch copies the text of the staff report to the Metro Vancouver Regional Planning Committee July 5, 2013. Formatting may be disrupted and images were not copied over. For the actual file, please download the full meeting agenda in PDF and see the entire package on this topic from pages 262 to page 348 of the total agenda of 425 pages.

To: Regional Planning and Agriculture Committee
From: Heather McNell, Regional Planning Division Manager
Planning, Policy and Environment Department
Date: June 21, 2013 Meeting Date: July 5, 2013
Subject: Corporation of Delta Request to Amend the Regional Growth Strategy for the MK
Delta Lands

RECOMMENDATION
That the Board:
a) Initiate the process for a Type 2 amendment to the Regional Growth Strategy for the
amendment requested by the Corporation of Delta to expand the Urban Containment
Boundary and change the regional land use designation from Conservation and Recreation to General Urban for a parcel located near the intersection of Highway 91 and 72nd Avenue; and
b) Direct staff to provide written notice of the proposed Type 2 amendment to all affected local governments and appropriate agencies.

PURPOSE
To inform the Metro Vancouver Board of a request from the Corporation of Delta for a Type 2 Regional Growth Strategy (RGS) amendment to expand the Urban Containment Boundary and amend lands from Conservation and Recreation to General Urban.
BACKGROUND

Metro Vancouver received a request from the Corporation of Delta to amend the RGS. The RGS contains amendment provisions and directs affected local governments seeking an amendment to submit a Council resolution. The Corporation of Delta Council passed a resolution requesting an amendment at their May 27, 2013 meeting (Attachment).

DISCUSSION
Site Context

The requested RGS amendment involves a currently undeveloped parcel of land as shown in the Location Map. The subject property is 36 hectares (89 acres) in size, and located at 10770 72 Ave. in the Corporation of Delta. It is currently designated a Resource Study Area in the Official Community Plan (OCP), and zoned I3 Extraction Industrial. It is not in the Agricultural Land Reserve. The subject property is currently designated Conservation and Recreation in the RGS, is located outside the Urban Containment Boundary, but within the Fraser Sewerage Area. The site is a former peat extraction operation, abandoned about 30 years ago and reverting to a natural state. The site is geographically contained on the west by Highway 91, the north by 72 Avenue and the south by 64 Avenue. It adjoins the Burns Bog Ecological Conservation Area (BCECA) on the eastern boundary.
5.7
RPA – 262 –

Page 2 of 4
The Proposed Amendment
On May 27, 2013, the Corporation of Delta Council passed first and second reading of Bylaw No. 7196 to permit a comprehensive mixed-use development that would include up to 1,000 residential units and up to 430,000 square feet of commercial floor area comprising a retail outlet mall and neighbourhood serving uses at 10770 72
Avenue. The site owner, MK Delta Lands Group, is offering to contribute $10
million towards the construction of a highway interchange at Highway 91 and 72nd Avenue. They are also offering to transfer ownership of a 78 hectare (193 acre) parcel that they own on the west side of Highway 91 to the Corporation of Delta to add to the Burns Bog Ecological Conservancy Area.
Council resolved to request that Metro Vancouver amend the RGS to include the subject property inside the Urban Containment Boundary, redesignate the subject property from RGS Conservation and Recreation to RGS General Urban and amend affected RGS maps to be consistent with the request.
Council also resolved to defer a local public hearing until Metro Vancouver has given preliminary approval to the proposed amendments to the RGS.

Considering the Request
Under RGS Section 6.3.3, the proposed changes are considered to be a Type 2 Minor Amendment and require a by-law receiving an affirmative two-thirds weighted vote of the Board and public hearing to proceed.
Along with Board adoption of the Regional Growth Strategy in July 2011, the Regional Growth Strategy Procedures Bylaw No 1148, 2011, established procedures for the consideration of Regional Growth Strategy amendment requests. The Procedures Bylaw requires that Metro Vancouver refer the requested amendment to the Regional Planning Advisory Committee (previously called the Technical Advisory Committee) for comment. The Regional Planning Advisory Committee comments will be considered by Metro Vancouver staff in preparing recommendations to the Regional Planning and Agriculture Committee and Board on the proposed amendment.
RPA – 263 –

Page 3 of 4

A Type 2 RGS amendment also includes the following notification by Metro Vancouver:
· Provide written notice of the proposed amendment to all affected local governments and
appropriate agencies, such as Port Metro Vancouver, with an opportunity to comment
within 30 days; and
· Post the notification of the proposed amendment on the Metro Vancouver website.
Complete Metro Vancouver staff analysis of the proposed RGS amendment, along with comments from the Regional Planning Advisory Committee, affected local governments and agencies will be included in a separate future report to the Board. This will include Metro Vancouver staff recommendations and an associated draft RGS Amendment Bylaw.

There are several areas that Metro Vancouver staff will consider when evaluating this RGS
amendment request. These include:
· Urban Containment
· Focusing growth in Urban Centres and Frequent Transit Development Areas
· Major Trip Generators outside of Centres
· Transportation and transit
· Impacts on regional air quality and greenhouse gas emissions
· Environmental impacts and protection of environmentally important areas
· Diversity of housing options within the context of healthy and complete communities
· Economic impacts.

RGS Amendment Process
The Table 1 outlines the process envisioned for this proposed amendment and is based on the requirements of the RGS for minor amendments and the RGS Implementation Guideline #2 –
Amendments to the Regional Growth Strategy.
Table 1: Timeline of RGS Amendment Process
Date Meeting
June 21, 2013
Report to Regional Planning Advisory Committee for
consideration
July 5, 2013
Regional Planning and Agriculture Committee
July 26, 2013
Metro Vancouver Board initiates RGS amendment process and
refers it to affected local governments and agencies for
comment.
October 4, 2013
Regional Planning and Agriculture Committee
October 25, 2013 Metro Vancouver Board receive Metro Vancouver staff report,
potentially give initial readings to the RGS Amendment bylaw
and set a date for a public hearing.
Early to Mid-November Public Hearing on proposed RGS Amendment Bylaw.
Late November Board consideration of 3rd reading and refer back to Delta for
approval.
RPA – 264 –

Page 4 of 4

ALTERNATIVES
That the Board:
1. a) Initiate the process for a Type 2 amendment to the Regional Growth Strategy for the
amendment requested by the Corporation of Delta to expand the Urban Containment Boundary and change the regional land use designation from Conservation and Recreation to General Urban for a parcel located near the intersection of Highway 91 and 72nd Avenue; and
b) Direct staff to provide written notice of the proposed Type 2 amendment to all affected local governments and appropriate agencies.
2. Not initiate the Regional Growth Strategy amendment process.

FINANCIAL IMPLICATIONS
If the RGS amendment process is initiated there will be costs associated with the holding of the public hearing, relating primarily to advertising it in a regional paper.

SUMMARY / CONCLUSION
The Corporation of Delta has requested that the RGS be amended to include the development site outlined in this report within the Urban Containment Boundary and to change the regional land use designation from Conservation and Recreation to General Urban. The Board has the authority to not initiate the proposed amendment as per RGS 6.4 and RGS Procedures Bylaw 1148. Staff recommends Alternative 1 to initiate the RGS amendment process to facilitate a fair process and fulsome regional dialogue on the proposed amendment and to notify affected local governments.
Attachment:
Corporation of Delta Staff Report dated May 21, 2013 (Doc #7524297)
7524026

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