This op ed appeared in the Delta Optimist on 24-Feb-2017 (http://www.delta-optimist.com/opinion/we-could-all-be-paying-dearly-for-urban-sprawl-from-bridge-1.10337692) under the headline “We could all be paying dearly for urban sprawl from bridge.” Reprinted here with permission of the author, Peter van der Velden.
There will be incredible pressure on Delta to develop should the Massey Bridge be built. Residential development will not be the only source of pressure. The CEO for the Port of Vancouver (PoV) has made it clear that the Port wants access to more land for industrial purposes. This has caused speculation. Speculation always drives up land prices.
Recently the city of Vancouver raised the fees for development permits. They made it clear that the costs for development are greater than the income that permits generate. This means that the capital costs for all development is subsidized by the taxpayer. In a city like Vancouver where infrastructure is largely in place this is a lesser concern. Development follows high density zoning patterns. Once density is achieved the increase in tax base helps cover the operating costs of that infrastructure.
The operating costs of servicing infrastructure (ie roads, sewers and amenities), is less likely to be covered for a municipality like Delta. The only thing that will improve this is density. It will take many years for that kind of density to be in place. For all those years the residents of Delta will be covering not only the capital costs for development, they will be subsidizing the operating costs.
In order for this density to happen in Delta we lose farmland. This encroachment of farmland is happening across the world. Populations increase and farmland is diminishing everywhere. This makes it increasingly difficult for production levels to keep up with world needs. Add to that the climatic difficulties we’re experiencing and we find our grocery costs increasing every year. Water shortages, floods, frost and hail storms in temperate zones are now regularly occurrences.
All this makes it ever more important to protect the farmland we have. To suggest that we can just import our food is irresponsible. We have the opportunity now to protect our food needs and not be reliant on imports. Self-sufficiency will be instrumental in Canada’s future well-being.
This will require planning on a scale not seen before. Industrial and residential growth need to be planned along with infrastructure needs and preservation of our agricultural land base. The only way this can be achieved is through governmental transparency and co-operation between governments.
Presently our communities aren’t so much planned as they are politicized. Decisions are made in isolation with little value placed on community input. Without clear reasoning from our politicians an atmosphere of distrust is created. BC’s triple delete scandal has made a mockery of our ‘Freedom of Information’ access to government decisions. Many documents are now redacted in order to “protect certain parties”. If those “certain parties” are not the citizens of BC, who are they?
In order for our communities to be planned and successful our democratic process has to serve us. Our values need to be protected as well as our assets. Without due process or careful planning our quality of life will deteriorate and be less than it can be.