Controversial Southlands proposal on Delta farmland – by Century Group – Citizen letter summarizes key issues – Public Hearing Oct 28, 29, 30

Southlands map from proposal Oct 2013(Update Nov. 5: Mayor Jackson abruptly ended oral presentation from the public on the fourth day of the Public Hearing. Final council decision on this is expected on Friday, Nov. 9, 2013. See our more recent posts for updates. And we urge people to review Mr. Hoover’s letter and check to see if Delta staff and Council exercise wisdom and address all the key concerns raised, and more, by the public.)

Below we carry a letter from Delta resident and taxpayer Greg Hoover to Mayor and Council of the Corporation of Delta regarding a major, controversial development application on the Southlands, agricultural land in Tsawwassen. This is “one of the most contentious properties in the Lower Mainland” (Business in Vancouver, 27-Aug-2013). See also www.savethesouthlands.ca.

A public hearing began on October 28 on this application and continues today, Oct 29. Public input (with full name and address) must be sent to Delta Municipal Council (mayor-council@delta.ca, with copy to icentre@metrovancouver.org) by October 30, 2013.

Council did a bate-and-switch trick. Any correspondence received by Council after July 30, 2013 will be considered. But Delta decreed that any correspondence before that date will be ignored. It must be resent in order to be considered on record. Many people are not aware of this tactic.

savethesouthlands-ca

Opponents of the rezoning say this is an important crossroads in the fight to save the Boundary Bay watershed. The proposal is from “agricultural” to “comprehensive development.”

The developer Century Group is proposing to build almost a thousand homes and commercial business area on farmland that has been in the past, some of the best agricultural land in Canada. This land contains many First Nation historical sites that will be irreparable and even destroyed. It also provides a stopover for birds along the Pacific Flyway, is in a RAMSAR designated area, and in its undeveloped state acts as a filter for Boundary Bay. It is in the Metro Green Zone and has been singled out as a high flood risk because of global warning. It has also been recognized at being at a critical risk for liquefaction. This rezoning application will not just affect Delta. If passed it could set a precedent for all agricultural land in BC, whether or not in the Agricultural Land Reserve.

Public hearing detailshttps://delta.civicweb.net/Documents/DocumentList.aspx?ID=96506. It runs 3 pm to 9:30 pm, with a break from 6 to 6:45 pm. Location is South Delta Recreation Centre. Dates, subject to speaker numbers, are Oct 28, 29, and 30

Mayor and Council
The Corporation of Delta
4500 Clarence Taylor Crescent
Delta B.C. V4K 3E2

October 26th 2013

Re; Development Application for the Southlands

Please accept this letter as my opposition to this development application, and following are my reasons for opposition.

During the development application for Marina Gardens in Ladner, mayor Jackson was quoted in the Optimist Jul 17/13 saying “to create a good community based on good plans and common sense” council must base their decision on facts not emotion, so lets summarize the facts on the Southlands and not involve the discussion with bicycle paths, organic vegetables or green houses. Let’s discuss the law and the ramifications for the taxpayers of Delta and the residents of Tsawwassen.

History;

a/ Much of the land in question was farmed successfully over decades.
b/ The applicant knew the land was agricultural when it was purchased
c/ Early attempts to develop the land were stopped in the Supreme Court by taxpayers.
d/ The applicant has maintained the agricultural tax rate by farming it over the decades.
e/ A further attempt to develop the land was defeated in a referendum by a 61% majority
f/ The mayor and council keep accepting ongoing applications even with past opposition

What is wrong with the application;

a/ In many communities an application to build on land designated as agricultural would not be accepted for consideration at all, as it is non-conforming to land use policy.

b/ This application contravenes the Official City Plan ( OCP ) for Delta

c/ This application contravenes the Tsawwassen Area Plan

e/ This application contravenes the Metro Vancouver Regional Growth Strategy

f/ The current application would result in between 2000 & 4000 new residents added to Tsawwassen. This is proportionate to adding 20,000 to 40,000 people to Richmond or 50,000 to 100,000 people to Surrey. This is a phenomenal number of new residents in ONE development for this small community. With the proposal for adding such a large number of residents to Tsawwassen shouldn’t the council be preparing and making public an extensive report which costs out the impact this application will have on existing infrastructure and services for Delta taxpayers and the residents of Tsawwassen?

I have seen no such public report regarding;

– DeltaHospital service
– Ambulance service
– Police service
– Fire protection service
– By – Law enforcement
– Libraries
– Schools
– Public Recreation facilities
– engineering and dyke maintenance

g/ The applicant has gone to great lengths to persuade the people of South Delta that the development will be a quality and “sustainable” development, even to the extent of building a model home in the Tsawwassen Town Center. However on July 29/13 the applicant told council that the first 50% of the development to be built will be condo townhouses. So the model home in the mall used to influence opinion will not be built first, and may well be never built, because of market forces, if further building takes place at all. I ask how can council consider a development application when they are being told by the applicant what he intends to build, with no confirmation of what may actually be built?

h/ Recently the developer of MarinaGardens in Ladner returned to council asking to alter construction on a development application that Delta council granted years ago. The developer didn’t get everything he wanted, but council said that to a great degree they had little say over what was being built because their hands were tied by previous agreements made in the original development application. So if Southlands is accepted what will future phases look like? Will they be more townhouses, single family homes or apartment buildings 4 or 6 stories high? Who knows, because the application doesn’t address that, and the council is not obligating the applicant to what he builds. Normally the Delta building department wants complete drawings and all the engineering information even if you are just proposing an addition on your house! Why does this development of 950 homes have such flexibility?

i/ The applicant has advertised heavily that the Southlands will be a pedestrian friendly neighbourhood in Tsawwassen, which means to me that there will be 950 residences that aren’t built to accommodate cars. The model home has no garage and the streets are narrow, so since all these residents don’t only ride bicycles in the real world, where will the over 950 cars be parked?

j/ The advertising of the development has also appealed to some people who see them as a chance to downsize and stay in Tsawwassen or as an opportunity for their kids to buy a first time home. In all of the rhetoric I have never seen a suggested price range for whatever is built. The TFN are building small homes on their land and selling starts at $499,000, and that does not include ownership of the land. If that is similar to what the applicant is proposing with the model home one would have to think these downsize homes are going to sell in the $600,000 to $700,000 range, but we don’t know. We do know that condo townhouses will have stairs and that is not what people who want to downsize are looking for.

k/ If the Southlands application is accepted it will be a large wedge in the door for other developers in the area to by-pass zoning and by-laws for all the same reasons given this applicant. This will result in more applications to develop neighbouring parcels based on the precedents set by the Southlands, that will regenerate all of the servicing and infrastructure issues I mention here.

l/ As part of this project the applicant is offering to donate a large portion of the assembled Southlands property to Delta. To my knowledge the council has not forecasted what this “gift” will cost the taxpayers of Delta. Aside from the cost of maintaining the land and the infrastructure in and around it, what does Delta intend to do with the land it assumes? An extremely difficult and expensive place to construct anything, and I really don’t think there are enough residents interested in growing their own carrots to use that kind of acreage. In my opinion this land is not a “gift”, rather it is an albatross that will be tied around the necks of taxpayers for decades at the relief of the developer.

m/ As happens in many of these development applications the proposal is supported by many people who don’t live and pay taxes in Tsawwassen, or people whose employment or financial gain is best served by showing public support. The process is large and complicated so the average person does not have the time to get involved and relies on the municipal government to ensure the project follows bylaws and building code practices, and is in the best interest of the residents and taxpayers. As my concerns indicate I don’t believe those uninvolved residents are being properly informed with unbiased information.

n/ With two phases of 475 units the residents of Tswawwassen are looking at years of construction and thousands and thousands of cars and trucks associated with the building of this project, that will clog 56th St. and damage local roads. I won’t even discuss dust, noise and other associated issues.

What is the long term cost to Delta taxpayers?

a/ The Corporation of Delta has spent hundreds of thousands of tax dollars, maybe more, on studies, open houses, public meetings and staff time. Is the developer being billed for the costs of these ongoing repetitive applications?

b/ Domestic water- South Delta is on water restrictions every year, yet council continues to grant permits for large and dense projects like this one, with no consideration of the future impact and tax increases that will be required to provide all these new residents with water. Our drinking water comes from North Vancouver and the pipe is only so big, so adding to existing capacity to service this proposed growth is not an easy or cheap fix for Delta taxpayers.

c/ Sanitary Sewers – in an interview with the Vancouver Sun Aug 30/12 regarding the provision of sewage disposal to the TFN, mayor Jackson said that the existing 20 km. sanitary sewer from Ladner and Tsawwassen to Annacis Island could only accommodate 700 additional residents until 2041! So my question is … Since that statement Delta Council has approved numerous dense developments across Ladner and Tsawwassen that have eaten well into that number of 700 maximum new residents, so how is that existing 20 km. sewer going to handle the 2000 to 4000 new residents this application will bring? The bigger question of course is who is going to pay for that sewer upgrade from Tsawwassen to Annacis Island? Will it be the taxpayers?

d/ Flood Plain Construction – In its wisdom council has indicated they will allow the applicant to not up fill the site to the elevation required for flood protection as suggested by engineers. In a time when the world is concerned about global climate change I have seen no report on the liability assumed by Delta taxpayers if this reduced elevation results in flooding or water issues in the future. Why would the taxpayers of Delta want to assume a potential liability of that size simply to save the applicant money? That liability will last into perpetuity.

e/ Once 950 homes are built, or even the initial 475, what is going to have to happen to the intersection of 12th Ave. and 56th St.? Won’t the comings and goings of thousands of additional cars everyday require major road and intersection changes? Or maybe a new road pushed through Beach Grove?

These homes will also require natural gas, telephone and cable service that all must be installed down 12th Ave. and Boundary Bay Road, as well as sidewalks and possibly bicycle paths and street lights. All more costs to Delta taxpayers resulting from this development.

f/ If each of the 475 first phase townhouses pays $2000 per year in municipal taxes and service fees Delta will receive a total of only $950,000 per year to maintain, service and provide new municipal infrastructure to this development, which in my opinion is extremely inadequate and will require constant subsidizing by Delta taxpayers.

Summary;

For the various reasons mentioned above my personal opinion is that there is almost no reason why the Delta council should even be considering this application. The project contravenes all land use policies associated with the area, and does not provide anything that is really needed by the existing residents of Tsawwassen.

The application has also morphed from a development of cottages in a pastoral setting to blocks of townhouses, which is totally out of context with the surroundings, no matter how many trees you plant.

The addition of that many new residents will dramatically strain existing infrastructure, which will result either in downgraded local service capabilities, or a massive tax increase to remedy the issues.

If the applicant only profits $25,000 from each unit he will profit $12,000,000 and walk away, leaving taxpayers with ongoing maintenance and infrastructure costs, a huge flood liability issue and  a “gift” that costs money forever.

These questions from a taxpayer not directly involved in the process should make it clear that for a development of this size there has not been enough work done to inform the people of Delta of the costs and ramifications it will have on local services and daily life in Tsawwassen.

Conclusion:

With all of the concerns I have mentioned I fully believe the development application should be stopped immediately and not pushed on the people of Delta again.

That seems unlikely as council seems bound and determined to give the applicant never ending opportunities to build something on that land. By now I’m sure the Southlands has become the longest running development application in Canada, and frankly as a resident I am embarrassed by this never ending saga.

I also believe that if this huge development is allowed to proceed as discussed here with all these outstanding issues and long term ramifications, then I believe this mayor and council should be held personally responsible for the poor way this application has been handled and how they have not done due diligence for the taxpayers of Delta.

This application should not be approved by the number of coloured T shirts in the room, or the number of letters from different sources in a binder. There is only one way to review an application of this size, with its potential costs and liabilities and the ramifications it will have on Tsawwassen, and that is by a public referendum.

It is my suggestion that for the next year both sides of the debate should be able to construct their positions with the truth and facts, and Delta should provide, at the applicants cost, definitive cost and impact studies for precisely what the developer is asking to do.

Then in next years elections a simple question is put on the ballot in Tsawwassen.

“Do you accept the current application for development of The Southlands …YES…NO”

If the application is accepted by the people it proceeds.

If the application is rejected by the people it is stopped, the developer is billed for all costs and presented with a position statement from Delta, that any further development applications for this land will only be considered if the developer pays for and wins a local referendum on the subject.

This entire issue must be brought to a conclusion once and for all by a well informed democratic approach.

Yours truly

Greg Hoover
A Delta taxpayer and 22 year resident of Tsawwassen

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4 Responses to Controversial Southlands proposal on Delta farmland – by Century Group – Citizen letter summarizes key issues – Public Hearing Oct 28, 29, 30

  1. Peter White says:

    Greg Hoover should run for Mayor. Obviously a well thought out letter with pertinent information the present Mayor and council seem intent on ignoring.

  2. Bruce Velestuk says:

    Very well said. The cost of this never ending process is staggering. The development application fees (only disclosed via Freedom of Information request exposes the stupidity of the process. Century was charged about $25,000 (plus $800 per day for public hearing) for this application. The fees for the last application were refunded. Councillor Campbell several years ago saw to it that Delta fees were the lowest. Contrast those fees with Surrey were the fees would be at least 10 times that and the application has to be complete prior to city investing any time or effort into the application. Century was still submitting documents within 2 week so the public hearing, and council was still hearing information at council meetings. That process should have been concluded prior to setting public hearing dates (90 days later). As a result there has not been a complete First Nation archeology survey (forest lands are of significance). Why would Delta want to own a grave yard???

  3. Barbara Bernhardt says:

    I wish you success in your very important fight to save Boundary Bay. My parents lived there for 20 years and thinking of the degradation that this development will cause is so devastating.

  4. Rod Maksym says:

    The best factual and common sense letter I have read to date. The talk on the street is that council is in the developers back pocket and the citizens be dammed. This proposal is so wrong and yet the major and council keep giving this developer chance after chance to push it through. What exactly is going on behind closed doors, we will never know. But, if after all the information is put out and the public has spoken against this extremely bad proposal and it goes through, we will know exactly what went on. Bottom line is that elected people are put in office to do whats right for the people and the people have spoken. The major and council are not a dictatorship and it’s not their mandate to tell us whats best for us !

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