Regionwide issue: Development vs agriculture – Southlands (Delta/Tsawwassen) public hearing at Metro Vancouver May 1, 11 am: Much at stake

Google Earth Southlands in region earth view(Updated) One of the most significant decisions affecting land use in Metro Vancouver is soon to be made. Public input from across the region is needed.

Public Hearing starting 11 am on Thursday, May 1, 2014, at the Metro Vancouver headquarters in Burnaby (4330 Kingsway). Members of the public can provide input by writing in ( or speaking to the hearing. Below are critical facts, links, and tips on how you can engage with this process.

The “Southlands” development application by Century Industries Ltd. tests many things. Development versus agricultural protection. A developers versus the community. Bureaucracy versus the people. Metro Vancouver regional bureaucracy versus one municipality. It will also test the functioning of Metro Vancouver as a bureaucracy. And the integrity of the much-lauded Regional Growth Strategy and its “Urban Containment Boundary.” It will put the spotlight on the directors of Metro Vancouver, who represent their respective city councils, and thereby, their citizens. This will be an important case to watch.  It will set precedents.

(Updated two paragraphs…) A critical matter for this decision is the determination of whether or not the application is consistent with the five goals of the Regional Growth Strategy. The Metro Vancouver staff report gives a detailed analysis, covering multiple considerations for each goal. This report has enough in it to indicate that the public servants at Metro recognize that the Southlands proposal does not meet the 5 goals of the Regional Growth Strategy. Metro staff present the issue as complex due to offered gift of land versus non-compliance with RGS Goals. They end the report saying, “Metro Vancouver’s role in this issue is to comment on the consistency of the proposed amendment
with Metro Vancouver 2040: Shaping our Future – to assess whether the benefits are sufficient to offset impacts on regional growth strategy objectives.” In short, this is a judgement call to be made by politicians, which is why MetroVanWatch further below puts the spotlight on how Metro Vancouver operates. For more comment on the staff report, click here.

But things are not cloudy for many in the local community. Southlands: The Facts and Save the Southlands are clear  that the application fails on each of the five goals (see  below).  The majority of people from the community who spoke out have been against the application. The Public Hearing by the Corporation of Delta in November 2013 was in the process of hearing from hundreds of members of the public, when Mayor Lois Jackson abruptly ended the hearing. (See here for South Delta Leader media coverage of the municipal Public Hearing in November 2013.) Delta Council then proceeded to ask Metro Vancouver to go ahead with the formal process of adopting proposed changes to the Regional Growth Strategy to accommodate this application, which is the reason for the  Public Hearing on May 1. Many in the community feel that  Delta Council failed to address many concerns, including environmental and natural hazards and future costs of building here. An expert had offer to create an alternative vision for this land (see “Southlands: The Facts” document), but that was ignored.

Millions of dollars have been spent over the past three decades in attempts to develop this land. Tens of thousands of hours of citizen and public servant time have gone into both sides of this debate.

Southlands The Facts statement to Metro Vancouver

The general public appears to be staunchly opposed to this current proposal. Twassassen advocacy group “Southlands: The Facts” is calling on citizens from across the region to pay attention, take action, and provide input to Metro Vancouver in writing or by speaking to the Public Hearing. MetroVanWatch also encourages citizens to write to their Mayors and Councillors (click here for contacts) indicating how you would like your municipality to vote or speak when decision time comes at upcoming meetings of the Metro Vancouver “Regional Planning and Agriculture Committee” and Board of Directors.

Southlands The Facts map of Southlands proposal, Tsawwassen

Below we provide links to related information, excerpts of critical information, and an exemplary letter from an expert.  

This table shows the basic parameters of the application, from page 27/41 of the Metro Vancouver staff report (for 7-Mar-2014 ).

Southlands site context, MV report, 7-Mar-2014, p27

Useful materials and links:


Message from “Southlands: The Facts” community group to citizens across the Metro Vancouver region.

As we have come to expect, a weekday morning Public Hearing will make it difficult for many to attend; however, we encourage you to plan to be at the Hearing and voice your opposition to this plan as this will be the last stage before a final decision is reached. If you do plan to attend the Public Hearing, you can email Richard Kunz ( as there may be an opportunity to coordinate transportation.

If you are unable to attend, you can still send correspondence regarding this application. We urge you to do so and please share this information with all friends and family members who reside in the Metro Vancouver region. They all have a say with Metro.

Written submissions must be received no later than 4 pm on Wednesday, April 30, 2014 or can be submitted in person at the Public Hearing. By email –

Both Metro’s report and the report submitted by our group contain many key points that you can refer to when submitting your comments, as it is clear the application violates Metro’s Regional Growth Strategy Planning Principles.

Although it has been a long road thus far, this will be the last opportunity for your opinion to be heard so please take the time to attend the Hearing or, at minimum, send in your correspondence. 

Thanks as always for your ongoing support.


MetroVanWatch note: Dealing with the system at Metro Vancouver

We will soon provide a link HERE on proceedings and processes at Public Hearings at the Metro Vancouver regional level.

Metro Vancouver is a billion-dollar bureaucracy supported by property taxes from taxpayers in all member municipalities. But it is not directly accountable to the public. This is why we need to think outside the box to hold these public servants and elected officials accountable.

Here is from the meeting agenda.

At its March 28, 2014 meeting, the GVRD Board considered the attached report titled “Corporation of Delta Proposed Regional Growth Strategy Amendment for Southlands”, dated, February 21, 2014.
With respect to delegating the holding of the public hearing to the Board Directors on the Regional Planning and Agriculture Committee, the Board decided not to delegate such authority. Consequently, the public hearing will be heard by the whole Board. The Board also set quorum for the public hearing at 10 directors. ….

e) appoint Derek Corrigan as chair of the public hearing and Harold Steves as vice-chair of the public hearing and set quorum for the public hearing as 10 directors.

This below is from the 7-Mar-2014 staff report to Metro Vancouver about this hearing.

public hearing the final week of April 2014 or the first week of May. The Committee and Board would then consider the public hearing materials and any comments received from affected local governments and agencies and the public, and 3rd and final reading of the amendment bylaw in May 2014.

Note that the following Board directors have a special role on these topics, as they are on the Metro Vancouver Regional Planning and Agriculture Committee:

  • Corrigan, Derek (Chair) – Burnaby
  • Steves, Harold (Vice Chair) – Richmond
  • Clay, Mike – Port Moody
  • Daykin, Ernie – Maple Ridge
  • Froese, Jack – Langley Township
  • Hepner, Linda – Surrey
  • Isaak, Kerri Palmer – Anmore
  • Mussatto, Darrell – North Vancouver City
  • Paton, Ian – Delta
  • Reimer, Andrea – Vancouver
  • Smith, Michael – West Vancouver
  • Stewart, Richard – Coquitlam
  • West, Brad – Port Coquitlam
  • Wright, Wayne – New Westminster

We understand that at a Metro Vancouver regional Public Hearing, “Alternate” Directors (who represent their municipalities) cannot take the place of appointed Directors (even when the appointed Directors are missing). This rule is different rules from Board of Director meetings (where the Alternate can participate if a Director is missing).


MetroVanWatch action suggestion to make Metro Vancouver more accountable:

Did you know that Metro Vancouver does not record votes for, against or abstentions? Directors on the Metro Vancouver Board and committees are not directly elected by the public for their positions. They are appointed by their municipal councils. Each municipality gets a number of directors and votes per director based on population ratios in the region. Each Director has an Alternate. Click to see the lists of Directors (and Alternates) and Committee members.

Typically, when the Director votes on a policy or decision, it has NOT been discussed or decided by that Director’s home municipality. So how do they decide their vote? Good question. And to what extent do their votes represent the wishes of their City Council? Or the wishes of their citizens, electors, and taxpayers? Good question.

Directors are designated by their municipal Councils. But do those Directors share all the relevant information from Metro with their Councils? Do they consult with their Councils and public on to vote? Do they discuss issues? We know as a fact that in the case of Vancouver, regarding adoption of the Regional Growth Strategy, the answer to each of those questions is “no.”

There is no obvious or direct connection between votes of Directors and the wishes of their home municipalities and citizens. And the public has no way to verify things.

Votes at Metro Vancouver are typically done very quickly. The Chair sweeps the room quickly, calling for a show of hands, “For,” “Against,” and “Abstentions.” No record is kept of who voted how. Hands are not even counted. The Chair simply proclaims the outcome.

So we recommend you contact your Council in advance of this Public Hearing, providing your views on Southlands, encourage your municipality to consider/represent your views,  and indicate (especially to your designated Director and Alternate) that you would like to know later exactly how your municipality voted (in Committee and Board meetings) on Southlands, and why. Hold them accountable.

To find contact information, links to each municipality’s website are here. Tell them what you think.


Letter to Metro Vancouver from Professor David Connell, PhD, Registered Professional Planner, 8-April-2014

I am a resident of Prince George, British Columbia, with an interest in the process to decide whether or not to amend the regional growth strategy in order to re-designate the Southlands site.  In addition to being a resident of British Columbia, I am also a professor in the School of Environmental Planning at the University of Northern British Columbia.  My areas of expertise are related to healthy communities, sustainable food systems, and agricultural land use planning.  Regarding the latter, I am the lead on a national project (that is just starting) that will examine the principles and beneficial practices that guide farmland preservation policies across Canada.  I am also a Registered Professional Planner.  Because I am observing this process from a distance and without first-hand knowledge of the specific site, I’ll focus my comments on the broader principles of farmland preservation and the region’s growth strategy.

It is clear that Metro Vancouver treats its farmland with extraordinary concern, as evidenced by the huge investment made in land use planning strategies and policies.  Such planning processes are the essential elements of a strong farmland preservation policy that integrates local interests with provincial interests as well as short-term with long-term perspectives.  Specifically, I note the following: Regional Growth Strategy, Regional Food System Strategy (and survey of public opinion), Agricultural Land Use Inventory, and Local Government Policy Options to Protect Agricultural Land and Improve the Viability of Farming in Metro Vancouver.

In sum, and without debating the specifics of the Southlands site, these strategy and policy documents set out a strong case both for protecting Metro Vancouver’s agricultural lands and for promoting farming as its highest and best use.  On this basis, I strongly encourage Metro Vancouver to uphold the principles and policies and in so doing, refuse the application to amend the regional growth strategy in order to designate the Southlands site for non-farm development.

Respectfully submitted,
David J. Connell, PhD RPP
Prince George, BC


Does the Southlands proposal meet the five goals of the Regional Growth Strategy. Metro Vancouver planning staff seem to think it does. See the staff report for details. But how could it be that many members of the public came to the opposite  conclusion? Here is the statement from Southlands: The Facts.

The Five Goals of the Regional Growth Strategy

Goal 1 – Create a Compact Urban Area.

Southlands is outside the Urban Containment Boundary and development would create high density housing far away from the Town Centre and transit services. In addition, the Tsawwassen area already has at least 2500 approved housing units, which will result in large population increases already surpassing Metro’s goals for growth.

Goal 2 – Support a Sustainable Economy.

Increasing the population does not guarantee increased economy and many of the new residents would be working outside of Tsawwassen. In addition, the loss of over 300 acres of farmland reduces the ability to create a sustainable agricultural economy, one that also supports food production and food security.

Goal 3 – Protect the Environment and Respond to Climate Change Impacts.

Building on a floodplain, increasing the number of vehicles, diesel particulates from the hundreds of thousands of dumptrucks of fill, destruction of bird and wildlife habitats – all poor ideas.

Goal 4 – Develop Complete Communities.

The current plan will NOT provide “affordable” housing and diversity of housing will be determined by the future housing market. Putting houses far away from the town center will not function to develop a more “complete” Tsawwassen.

Goal 5 – Support Sustainable Transportation Choices.

The location of the vast majority of the homes is as far away from transportation hubs as possible. Those living close to Boundary Bay will be serviced by a once an hour shuttle bus, forcing residents to drive rather than use more sustainable transportation choices.


Here is text copied from Metro Vancouver website, with notice of the Public Hearing. This link was from the top page of the Metro Vancouver website as of 24-Apr-2014.



Metro 2040 Amendment Request from the Corporation of Delta – Southlands

Metro Vancouver recently received a request from the Corporation of Delta to amend the Regional Growth Strategy (RGS) for part of a site commonly known as “Southlands”. The proposed amendment seeks to move the Urban Containment Boundary and change the regional land use designation for part of the site from Agricultural to General Urban and for two other locations to Conservation and Recreation. The proposal constitutes a RGS Type 2 minor amendment which requires a regional public hearing and an amendment bylaw passed by an affirmative 2/3 vote from the Metro Vancouver Board to proceed.

On March 28, 2014, the Metro Vancouver Board initiated procedures for a proposed amendment to Metro 2040 for the Southlands site, in response to a request received from the Corporation of Delta. The Board directed staff to notify all affected local governments and other agencies. The Board also gave 1st and 2nd reading to an amendment bylaw and referred it to a public hearing.

 Proposed Regional Growth Strategy Amendment for Southlands Report, RGS amendment bylaw and attachments.

Public Hearing

Date: May 1st, 2014
Time: 11 a.m.
Location: 2nd Floor Metro Vancouver Boardroom, 4330 Kingsway, Burnaby B.C.

Have Your Say
Written submissions must be received no later than 4:00 p.m. on Wednesday, April 30, 2014 or can be submitted in person at the Public Hearing

Mail: Metro Vancouver – Southlands Public Hearing,
4330 Kingsway, Burnaby B.C. V5H 4G8.

If you would like to receive correspondence from us regarding updates on the proposed Southlands RGS amendment please, click here to sign up. 

RGS Amendment Requests from the Corporation of Delta – MK Delta

On July 26, 2013, the Metro Vancouver Board initiated a proposed Regional Growth Strategy amendment to respond to a request from the Corporation of Delta to amend the Regional Growth Strategy (RGS) for a site commonly called the “MK Delta Lands”. The proposal is to amend the Urban Containment Boundary and change the regional land use designation from Conservation and Recreation to General Urban. The proposal constitutes a RGS Type 2 minor amendment which requires a regional public hearing and an amendment bylaw passed by an affirmative 2/3 vote from the Metro Vancouver Board to proceed.

At the July 26, 2013 meeting, the Metro Vancouver Board resolved that no regional public hearing would be held until the Corporation of Delta holds its public hearing and passes 3rd reading of its OCP amendment bylaw. Subsequently, Metro Vancouver was advised by the Corporation of Delta that the applicant would be revising the development proposal, and as a result, requested that Metro Vancouver put the RGS amendment process on hold at this time.


Southlands: The Facts provides detailed analysis of this application.

Tsawwassen_Southlands-The-Facts submission to Metro Van, 24-Feb-2014

Of particular note, we direct readers to the detailed analysis of the five goals of the Metro Vancouver Regional Growth Strategy, the discussion of the precedents being set here, as well as compromises, and a discussion of an alternative proposal.  For convenience, we copy the Executive Summary below.

The following information is presented to Metro Vancouver in order to assist your deliberations on Delta’s application to re-designate a portion of lands in South Delta, known as Southlands.

The Southlands Saga has many chapters to it, and the latest one has been on-going since 2007. For seven long years two-thirds of Tsawwassen residents have been steadfast in the majority view that 100% of Southlands should remain agricultural. 73% of residents stated resoundly in 2011 that all of Southlands should be put back in the ALR. Instead, Delta officals pushed ahead with a contrived offer known as the ‘80:20’ plan. An offer presented to the developer during the March 2011 Mayor’s Summit as the only likely plan to be considered by Metro Vancouver.

Metro Vancouver committees and board members will receive a lot of paperwork and presentations from all stakeholders in this matter – both in support of, and against, the re-designation application. On the face of it both points of view have many key arguments that sound compelling but in the end we believe the only fair and equitable measure of Delta’s application is to assess it against the Regional Growth Strategy (RGS).

By every measure of the RGS, Delta’s submission being brought forth for your consideration does not conform to the five key goals for regional growth. These goals are a vital barometer against which we believe Metro board members must evaluate, and reject, this application.

The implications of approving this application are palpable on the RGS and to the future of South Delta.

As you think on this matter it is also crucial that you keep in mind the ‘macro-implications’ of Delta’s application. Among them: i) the wisdom of building on a flood plain; ii) the consequences of more ’80:20’- type proposals, including the MK Lands application looming ahead in Delta; iii) the impact on the Tsawwassen Area Plan; iv) the precedence it would set for farmland and green space adjacent to Southlands; v) the consequences to the Boundary Bay ecosystem after building 950 housing units on its borders; vi) the moral precedence of approving a plan that claims to be the ‘only salvation’ to reactivating farmland, which was successfully farmed and then laid to waste by a succession of developers who have owned the land.

By viewing the submissions from all parties through this lens we believe you will find the correct answer. 

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1 Response to Regionwide issue: Development vs agriculture – Southlands (Delta/Tsawwassen) public hearing at Metro Vancouver May 1, 11 am: Much at stake

  1. urbanizta says:

    Reblogged this on CityHallWatch: Tools to engage in Vancouver city decisions and commented:

    This Public Hearing at Metro Vancouver headquarters is of great regional importance. We urge Vancouver citizens to pay attention and have a say before or at the hearing. Note, that Councillors Kerry Jang, Heather Deal, Tony Tang, Raymond Louie , Geoff Meggs, Andrea Reimer, Tim Stevenson, and Mayor Gregor Robertson. are the only members of City Council representing Vancouver citizens at the Metro Vancouver Board. They are ALL from Vision Vancouver. Let them know that you are concerned. Watch what they do. Do the speak up and vote to protect agriculture? Let them know that you want to know HOW they vote and WHY when this Southlands application comes up for a final decision.

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