Delta: Southlands (farmland) &amp ALR (Feb 7)

DELTA MUNICIPAL COUNCIL considered the new Metro Vancouver Regional Growth Strategy at its Regular Meeting on Monday, February 7, 2011. Delta is one of the first local governments affected by the RGS to consider it and make the decision to accept or reject. Below you will find our report and related materials.

Delta Council is now considering whether or not to apply to return the Southlands into the Agricultural Land Reserve. Many people have signed up to speak for and against. This video was prepared by a group wishing to protect the farmland, but council has reportedly banned it from being shown.

MetroVanWatch report on Delta Council’s vote on RGS (Feb 7)
Posted on February 8, 2011 by cityhallwatch

The Delta Municipal Council meeting (7 pm, Monday, Feb 7, 2011) went somewhat as expected: Delta Council (1) passed the proposal to request the Agricultural Land Commission to consider returning the Southlands to Agricultural Land Reserve status, and then (2) passed the RGS, which undermines agricultural land in general.

  • Only one person from the public presented a statement and question on the RGS.
  • The question was articulately asked, but was not answered. (“Will you defer approval of the RGS Bylaw until the RGS is amended to ensure that a public hearing at Metro level is always held whenever any change to an urban containment boundary is proposed?”)
  • The Mayor only commented on how there had been so much consultation over so many years and that Council could not possibly delay this decision for one small detail.
  • One of the Councillors the spoke about Special Study Areas, although these are NOT relevant to the Southlands (former Spetifore farmland in Tsawwassen). The Councillor stated that in the Southlands case, a decision on change of land use would still require a 2/3 vote of the Metro Board.
  • This statement was completely wrong, but staff made no effort to clarify that point.
  • Delta planning department staff must know that a change of land use on Southlands, once the RGS enters into force, will only require a 50%+1 vote at the Metro Board (this means that, for example, the three biggest municipalities alone — just Vancouver, Surrey, and Burnaby, for example — decide the fate of land in Delta), and with NO local or Metro Van public hearing to get community input.
  • This is a very important point. Staff should have provided the correct information so that Council could make an informed decision.
  • It appears therefore that Council made a decision based on incorrect information. This is just one example of the many problems of the process leading up to the creation and acceptance of the RGS.
  • What does this decision mean? Most municipalities in Metro Vancouver have yet to “accept” or “reject” (completely or with reference to specific paragraphs) the RGS, by mid-March. If the RGS enters into force (possibly within two months, unless our elected officials start to take its flaws seriously and demand, for the public good, that the RGS be revised), then after the November 2011 election, communities are likely to see developments pushed through using Metro Vancouver processes that will easily override local interests, opinion or opposition. Municipalities may they begin to see the conflicts begin in their jurisdictions.
  • MetroVanWatch concluding questions: For such an important decision in Delta Council, only one speaker addressed Council about the RGS. Is the low turnout because the people of Delta have had the RGS accurately and truthfully explained to them, and the majority of Deltans support it? Has the RGS been fairly and meaningfully covered by the local media? Has the Delta municipal Council made a great effort to reach out and explain the RGS to the community in a timely way, especially in the last six months, when its most important content took concrete form and many revisions were made? Have the opinions of Deltans been adequately reflected in the RGS? Or is it that Deltans don’t realize what their elected officials have done? Or that notice of the RGS on the agenda was only made public on Friday, or that in Delta only 15 minutes are allotted to speakers from the public on all agenda items? Or some other reason?
  • Final point: Our public servants have a code of conduct of first and foremost serving the public interest and our elected officials are first and foremost accountable to the public. Let us hope that during the ratification period now to mid-March, as municipal councils review the RGS, that they do their jobs properly. The record will speak for itself.

LETTER FROM CITYHALLWATCH.CA to DELTA MUNICIPAL MAYOR AND COUNCIL [7-FEB-2011 before the meeting, now part of the official record]
Re: Please reject or delay “Regional Growth Strategy Bylaw for Acceptance” (F.04, for discussion, Regular Council Meeting, 7-Feb-2011).

Mayor Jackson and Delta Municipal Councillors:

  • I am writing to respectfully urge you to either reject or delay the acceptance of Metro Vancouver’s Regional Growth Strategy until a number of serious problems with the RGS are properly addressed.
  • Many issues about the RGS remain unresolved, including conflicts with the Agricultural Land Commission legislation, as well as threats to the conservation of green space, and potential conflicts with Metro Vancouver’s own Food Security Policy.
  • On January 13 (the day before the second reading of the RGS Bylaw at the Metro Vancouver Board), held a public forum for Metro Vancouver citizens. It concluded by unanimously adopting the following statement:
  • The RGS — the Regional Growth Strategy for Metro Vancouver — has had a seriously flawed process and has major problems. These problems include the lack of green zone protections of agricultural and conservation lands, the transfer of  municipal land use authority to the region, and the role of TransLink.
  • The RGS should NOT proceed further with the adoption process until its problems have been resolved.
  • I also urge you to organize at least one meaningful public meeting for the citizens of Delta to explain the significance and implications of the current draft of the RGS, as important changes happened to the document since most of the public had the opportunity to provide input, and even at best, the public awareness of this policy has been very low. A policy with an expected life of thirty years deserves a high level of public understanding and support before it is adopted. Otherwise, any municipality that moves ahead with the RGS may be facing challenges when the policy goes into the implementation phase. The current Delta Municipal Council owes it to future Councils and citizens to do this right and ensure that the public fully understands and supports such an important policy.


  • It is hoped that Council will accept the recommendation by Mr Harvie to request that the Southlands be returned to the Agricultural Land Reserve.
  • This will take time, but even then there is no guarantee that the Agricultural Land Commission will in fact approve such a request.
  • Meanwhile the RGS bylaw, on page 66 of Attachment B, in section 6.3.4. (f)  would make it possible for an industrial development to extend the urban containment boundary, to include some or all of the Southlands, despite its agricultural designation.
  • This would also not be subject to a public hearing at the Metro level, and could be approved by a simple majority of one by the Metro Board.
  • As the preservation of farmland is a Metro-wide concern it is difficult to understand why individual municipalities would be allowed to alter local urban containment boundaries unilaterally.
  • At this time Southlands is in the Green Zone, which will be abolished with the new RGS, and such changes would require a public hearing by the Metro Board.
  • My Question to Council.
  • Will you defer approval of the RGS Bylaw until the RGS is amended to ensure that a public hearing at Metro level is always held whenever any change to an urban containment boundary is proposed.?

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