NORTH DELTA – Thirteen electoral hopefuls tried their luck at appealing to voters in North Delta Tuesday evening, discussing a variety of issues from transportation to marijuana grow-ops. The first divisive topic of the evening was the MK Delta Lands proposal to build 1,100 residential units of town homes and apartments at Highway 91 and 72nd Avenue. Some were adamant there can be no building on what they believe is part of the environmentally-sensitive "lagg" of Burns Bog.
Incumbent Coun. Sylvia Bishop said if it were not for the man-made highway separating the land from the contiguous mass of Burns Bog, it would be part of the ecological conservancy today.
Many others agreed. Lori Mayhew said Delta needs to work with the Burns Bog Conservation Society to protect the land from development. Jennifer Thoss was even more direct: "This is an easy question. No."
Nicholas Wong, the youngest candidate on the ticket at 24 years of age, said his environmental convictions are strong and would be opposed to building density on any green space in Delta. Incumbent Coun. Jeannie Kanakos cited the different iterations of the project indicating the public isn’t interested in development there. "What you’re looking at is a significant project that seems to be moving in the wrong direction," she said.
Others had more practical reasons for their opposition. Ron Calliou said no to development, citing an increase in traffic and accidents. "Just because you can, doesn’t mean you necessarily should," he said. Johann Ackermann, meanwhile, said building on the bog could be risky because if anything goes wrong then Delta will be on the hook for approving the development, echoing similar criticisms made about building the Southlands development on a floodplain in Tsawwassen.
Some candidates, like incumbent Coun. Ian Paton, were more neutral in their stance, saying they’ll wait until the proposal comes before council before jumping to a decision. Incumbent Coun. Bruce McDonald said the developer has the legal right to come before council despite the difficulty they might have getting it through. Fellow incumbent Coun. Robert Campbell pointed out that the proposal has changed significantly since 2013 and developers have the right to follow through. "You’ve got to put yourself in their shoes," he said. "You’d want your chance to appear before council."
Rod Binder said MK Delta Lands already have the right to certain land uses that might be worse than what the developers are proposing, adding the project has changed based on public feedback. "This appears to be a land owner that listens," he said, citing the challenge of finding housing in North Delta. Peter Mattoo said he doesn’t want to see the bog increase in size, adding that just as people wouldn’t want housing encroaching on the bog, the bog should not encroach on housing.
There are few, if any, areas left in North Delta to develop, he said. If elected, he would carefully review what’s being proposed and look at the pros and cons. Heather King had perhaps the most interesting idea of all. She said people in Delta will always be worried when a developer owns environmentally sensitive land. She proposed a land swap between MK Delta Lands and the municipality that would allow the developer to acquire Paterson Park in Delta. Another topic that generated a great deal of discussion was housing for seniors and those on fixed incomes.
Tsawwassen resident Peter Van Der Velden filed his papers to run for council but announced on Oct. 17 he was withdrawing from the race. There is another all-candidates meeting in North Delta on Saturday, Nov. 1 starting at 2 p.m. at North Delta Evangelical Free Church, 11300 84th Ave. The meeting is hosted by Delta Residents’ Association. Amacnair@thenownewspaper.co