Exclusive video: Metro Vancouver Board of Directors, July 26, 2013, on MK Delta Lands, Burns Bog

This is a portion of the Metro Vancouver (GVRD) Board of Directors meeting on July 26, 2013. The meeting covered MANY important topics, including Regional Growth Strategy and Regional Context Statements. But most of the meeting was held in secret, with only voting done in public. This topic, though, regarding a major development proposal by MK Delta Lands on Burns Bog, was discussed in public. Here is video of that part of the meeting.

The Board told the Corporation (municipality) of Delta that before the GVRD reviews the huge development proposal on the ecologically sensitive Burns Bog, Delta must first hold its own public hearing and listen to its own residents. No end runs or attempts to circumvent accountability to its own citizens. The mayor of Delta was clearly not happy about this outcome. Local community organizations, like the Burns Bog Conservation Society, were pleased with it, though. Jump down a few paragraphs for the BBCS report of the meeting plus related correspondence.

LACK OF TRANSPARENCY, ACCESSIBILITY OF METRO VANCOUVER

As a side comment, MetroVanWatch is highly concerned that most of this Board meeting was actually closed to the public. In abruptly closing the meeting near its very start, without adequate reason provided, we believe the Chair may have violated Provincial legislation and are investigating further. 

As for documentation of meetings, Metro Vancouver gets a failing grade. The billion dollar bureaucracy does not archive video of its own meetings, and audio recordings are sporadic. Through a formal Freedom of Information inquiry, we have received an audio CD of the entire meeting, and will post that online later, but have been told that Metro Vancouver did not record its own video of the meeting. Thus, what you see here is exclusive, the only existing copy of the meeting video. The portion in the video shown above a volunteer was able to handle technical details and capture the live web stream. It was available for public viewing on the web only in real time. People should be asking this: Why does Metro Vancouver hide from the public its conduct of public business in board and committee meetings? Ask your municipality’s Board director(s) for a convincing explanation. Tell us what you hear.

SUGGESTED ACTION

Write your municipal Council urging them to apply pressure on Metro Vancouver to provide live and archive video of ALL Board and committee meetings. There is no excuse for such secrecy in implementing public business for the regional population of over 2 million people.

If you are interested in the MK Delta Lands topic, mark your calendars for the October 4, 2013 meeting of the Metro Vancouver Regional Planning Committee.

MetroVanWatch seeks volunteer videographers for this and other board and committee Metro meetings, until public pressure forces the billion-dollar bureaucracy to do it. Contact citizenYVR@gmail.com to help!

On August 4, we wrote to the Chief Administrator of Metro Vancouver, plus the responsible Provincial minister about the abrupt closing of the July 26 meeting. As of August 21, we have not even received acknowledgement of receipt of our letter. Copy provided at bottom of this post. For the record, CAO Ms. Carol Mason has not yet responded directly to one of our letters in the past year. Not once.

**********

Here is a report of the meeting by the Burn Bog Conservation Society.

Metro Vancouver met Friday, July 26 at its regular meeting. One of the issues was the inquiry by the Corporation of Delta asking Metro Vancouver to possibly amend its Regional Growth Strategy designation of MK Delta’s land at 10770-72nd Avenue, Delta from Conservation and Recreation to General Urban. Mk Delta Lands is located on the Lagg of Burns Bog.

The 89 acres of unprotected bogland is on the east side of highway 91 at 72nd Avenue.  Delta Council’s proposal would sandwich the Burns Bog Ecological Conservation Area between two developments, resulting in the ecological fragmentation of Burns Bog.

Delta Council appealed to Metro Vancouver about the possibility of amending the Regional Growth Strategy and changing the zoning of the MK Delta Lands property. Metro Vancouver felt a Delta Council public hearing needed to be held first before any decision can be made by Metro Vancouver.  Until the public hearing is held by Delta Council, Metro Vancouver will not hold their own on the subject.

The Burns Bog Conservation Society submitted to the Corporation of Delta 4,677 signatures against the development in June. The numbers continue to grow.  There are 1600 names on the Society’s online petition alone. The public needs to be consulted on this issue.

Don DeMill, a long time Delta resident and retired biologist and Eric Wirsching spoke at Metro Vancouver’s meeting about the importance of preserving the ecology of this property. Wirsching, a student studying Sustainable Agriculture at Kwantlen Polytechnic University, cited academic studies to show that the environmental assessments needed to be more in depth. There is evidence that endangered red and blue listed species live in the area and would be harmed by the development.

The proposed development is in an area rich with plant and animal life not found in any other part of the bog. DeMill pointed out that the Lower Cougar Creek used to flow through this area.  Cougar Creek is a salmon bearing creek. Don DeMill’s power point presentation showed the swamp forest in the MK Delta Lands area in order to demonstrate his point.

In December 2003, former Premier Gordon Campbell announced that four levels of government were prepared to buy 5,500 acres of Burns Bog.  This included the current MK Delta Lands Group’s property.

In February 2004, just as the Burns Bog land owned by the McLaughlin was to go into foreclosure, Jack Mathews paid off the mortgages on Burns Bog.  He chose to sell 5,000 acres to the four levels of government for $73million. He left $5million on the table and kept 500 acres of Burns Bog. These 500 acres includes the land currently owned by MK Delta Lands Group.

**********

Below is copy of a letter from Eliza Olson, President of the Burns Bog Conservation Society, to the Metro Vancouver Board prior to the meeting.

From: Wally & Eliza [mailto:davyduke@telus.net]
Sent: Wednesday, July 24, 2013 9:14 PM
To: Directors, Board of Directors, Metro Vancouver
Subject: Letter to Metro Vancouver regarding the Corporation of Delta’s request to change zoning on MK Delta Land

Board of Directors, Metro Vancouver,

Please find attached my letter regarding the Corporation of Delta’s request for changing the zoning on the MK Delta Lands at the bottom of 72nd Avenue and Highway 91, Delta, BC.

As President of the Burns Bog Conservation Society, I have people coming into the Society’s office expressing their opposition to the MK Delta Lands proposal. I am asked at the swimming pool, in the shopping mall and on the phone, what the Society’s position is on the conversion of this land to housing and a shopping mall.

The Burns Bog Conservation Society cannot support this development proposal. It is contrary to its mandate and further it is contrary to the position of local, national, international peatland organizations, members of the United Nations and the Ramsar Convention of Wetlands of International Importance.

The Society recently supported the Wetland Charter proposed by Ducks Unlimited, World Wildlife Fund (Canada), the David Suzuki Foundation and other local and national organizations. This charter supports protecting what is currently available in the Lower Mainland and increasing the available wetlands by 105 by 2020.

Six to 10% of the world’s greenhouse gases are caused by the destruction of peatlands worldwide. All of Burns bog including the MK Delta Lands is part of the world’s disappearing 3% of peatlands.

Based on current knowledge of the role of peatlands in preventing climate change, it is morally irresponsible to support destruction of our disappearing peatlands.

You, along with the members of our community, have been gifted with a great responsibility—that is protecting the largest raised peat bog on the west coast of North America—Burns Bog. The world is watching. Please do not disappoint. It was your persistence in the past that approximately half of the original bog is in a conservation area and it has been given international recognition by the Ramsar Convention of Wetlands of International Importance.

It was in 1995, that the international peatland community came together at the International Peat Congress in Edinburgh, Scotland and supported the resolution that Burns Bog become a Ramsar site.

Sincerely,

Eliza Olson
President
Burns Bog Conservation Society

*****************

FROM METROVANWATCH.CA

August 4, 2013

Re: Inquiry regarding closing of GVRD Board meeting July 26, 2013

Ms. Carol Mason, Chief Administrative Officer, Metro Vancouver / GVRD

cc. Minister Coralee Oakes, Minister of Community, Sport and Cultural Development
Dear Ms. Mason,

We are writing to request accurate information about what protocol, rules, and/or explanations were applied for the Chair to close the GVRD Board meeting shortly after 9 am on July 26, 2013.
The agenda for the Regular Board Meeting 9 am makes no mention of closing the meeting at that time. We were attempting to follow the proceedings by live web video, and it appeared that no explanation was provided. It seems that this action may have been in violation of the Community Charter provisions under BC Provincial legislation. The meeting was to have conducted important public business. People were watching on video and present in the chambers waiting for this to occur. It appears that the closed meeting ended and the public accepted back to the room nearly two hours after the 9 am start. From accounts I have heard, there was little or no public discussion most of the items on the agenda, as the later open portion of the meeting rapidly moved through voting by Board members.
We note that the public has no easy way to review the Board meeting proceedings after the fact, as audio and video recordings are not available online to the public, as far as we know. We would like have the ability to verify that public affairs are being conducted properly. Please take this as a reminder of our repeated requests for Metro Vancouver to provide online archived video of all Board and committee meetings, as is already being done by all or most of your member municipalities.
We would appreciate a prompt acknowledgement of receipt of this message and an acceptable response at your earliest convenience.
Sincerely,
MetroVanWatch
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