May 1, 2014, saw the conclusion of the oral portion of the Public Hearing to consider amending Metro Vancouver’s Regional Growth Strategy Amendment to permit the Southlands development on agricultural land in Delta. But written submissions will be accepted until the time indicated above.
Below we provide some media links after the Public Hearing, plus commentary from a participant of that day.
- Metro hearing on Southlands wraps in a day: Speakers limited to three minutes as regional district hears pros and cons of Southlands development plan (Sandor Gyarmati, Delta Optimist, 7-May-2014)
- Will post as it arrives.
MetroVanWatch comment: Millions of dollars are at stake, and there are vast implications for the entire Metro Vancouver region. An overflow crowd jammed the regional district’s headquarters in Burnaby for a public hearing and, by mid-afternoon, 73 speakers had made a presentation The majority of the first 50 or so were in favour of the application, many wearing the green T-shirts that have come to symbolize support for the Century Group proposal, but then the tide began to turn. The board could vote on the proposal at its next meeting, which is set for Friday, May 23.
Observations from a participant.
- With the unexpected extension of the deadline for written submissions, there are signs that the developer is aggressively soliciting support from other developers, developer/farmers. MetroVanWatch invites whistleblowers to report in. If you have examples of solicitation by the developer, please send us an e-mail to citizenYVR@gmail.com. We will protect confidentiality.
- This is very, very important to the developer community. If this project is turned down by Metro it will mean that a lot of agricultural land owned by speculators will overnight become land that is to be used for agriculture, rather than for development.
- The people of Tsawwassen have been fighting this for 30 years, but the proponents have been able to force this through the processes to this point. The final decision will be political, but the mayors and councillors who vote on the Metro Vancouver board of directors.
- At the Public Hearing, the proponent, Hodgins, had brought in a lot of people Century had provided with green shirts. Observers suggested that they were mostly Century connected employees, tenants and longtime Liberal supporters. Former Liberal MLA Val Roddick was present, perhaps to show political connections. She and the old school farmer/developers and realtors spoke about how farming was so difficult and land prices were so high, newcomers to farming couldn’t afford to buy land.
- However, a speaker pointed out that in 2007 Hodgins’ development company purchased a 20 acre agricultural parcel of land at the entrance to Tsawwassen. He paid $2.7 million. The land had been neglected, so soon came out the familiar line that the land was unfarmable and too expensive to rehabilitate. When it became obvious the property would not be developable, it was put on the market, where it sat for 2 years. It was finally sold to Delta in 2012 for $1.55 million, or $88,500 per acre. Hodgins was quoted in the Delta Optimist as saying “I’m glad to sell the property at the going price per acre”.
- Delta rehabilitated the property for $177,000 and in 2013 Snow Farms, as organic farming company leased the land and is now growing organic vegetables.
- Compare now this agricultural land saga. Not too far down the road from that property is a 47.68 acre agriculture property known as the Old Guichon Farm, was sold in Nov.9, 2011 by a numbered development company. It sold for $6 million, about $130,000 per acre.
- The Chair decided at the beginning of the Hearing that people would have only 3 minutes to state their case. As one lady said, after she was told her time was up, “3 minutes are not enough time for a woman to talk”. A rare moment of levity.
- Richard Kuntz, spokesman for Southlands the Facts, spoke early in the morning and showed exactly what would happen to the RGS and the Tsawwassen Area Plan if the rezoning is allowed. Powerful presentation. He also said that by allowing such a change to the Urban Containment Boundary when all five of the principles for allowing such a change are broken, there is very little point in having Metro at all. Which is true.
- The meeting ran right through with no breaks, including for lunch, and by 4pm was done.
- It was decided by Metro that the date for receiving information would be extended until May 9.
- The SUPPORT side [note correction] also reintroduced a petition of 1700 names they put together last fall, so it’s already there on the record. Metro Vancouver apparently disapproved of the online petitions, even though most signatures were from North Delta and could be cross referenced to Liberal party lists, much was made of “others” giving their opinion. [Save the Southlands had a petition against the Southlands Development that was presented to Delta. Notice of the petition was presented as written submission #638 to Metro Vancouver indicating 3,953 signatures opposing the Southlands Development Plan.]
- It is interesting to note that Translink put a thumbs down on the project and Burnaby Council rejected it as well.