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Opponents demand public hearing for North Delta highrise project

876 residential units in four buildings ranging from 6 to 32 storeys pitched for Delta Shoppers Mall
A four-building mixed-use development ranging in height from six to 32 storeys is being proposed for the Delta Shoppers Mall site at 8037 Scott Road in North Delta. (Arcadis - IBI Group/City of Delta image)

Heated comments were hurled at council members Monday afternoon as residents opposed to a proposed multi-tower development on Scott Road once again demanded a public hearing on the matter.

Dozens of people cheered on as three residents spoke out against the proposed redevelopment of the Delta Shoppers Mall site during the question-and-answer period before the Sept. 11 regular council meeting at the North Delta Centre for the Arts.

The project was not on the docket that day, though correspondence included with the meeting’s agenda included 37 letters opposing the project, three in support, one that mentions it but did not make the writer’s position clear, and two petitions with a total of 390 signatures from those who do not want to see the development proceed as designed.

That’s in addition to dozens of other letters sent to council since the project was unveiled at a November 2022 Committee of the Whole meeting, and a previously-submitted petition opposing the redevelopment signed by more than 250 residents in the 37-storey Delta Rise, located next door to the Delta Shoppers Mall.

The proposed redevelopment of the 2.4-hectare site located at 8037 to 8087 Scott Road (between the Real Canadian Superstore and Delta Rise) includes four buildings ranging in height from six to 32 storeys, with a total of 876 residential units, 10,572 square metres of office space, 7,178 square metres of commercial space, and childcare spaces for a 60 children.

Of the 876 residential units, 643 are slated to be market condo units located in two 32-storey highrises. A 10-storey building would include 150 senior housing units, while a six-storey building would include 66 market and 17 non-market purpose-built rental housing units.

The plan was well received by council when it was revealed in November, with Mayor George Harvie calling it the “first time I’ve seen in many years something that’s ticked a lot of boxes.”

As the proposal is consistent with the site’s current designation under Delta’s Official Community Plan (OCP) and the North Delta Area Plan, which permits a maximum height of 32 storeys, the rezoning application does not automatically require a public hearing under bylaw changes adopted by council on Dec. 12, 2022. The project is the first to make its way through the approval process under the new rules.

Council has yet to vote on the development application.

SEE ALSO: Advocates rally for B.C. vacancy controls, landlords say they won’t work

Staff are currently reviewing feedback the city has received so far, including at four public info sessions held last month, before the application comes before council for first, second and third reading. Council can elect to refer the project to a public hearing at that time.

The speakers Monday afternoon and their supporters accused council members of caring more for the needs of developers than the feelings of North Delta residents.

“I know all of you hear the residents; my question is, are you listening?” asked Dianne Jasper, who called the project “density on steroids (…) to the extreme.”

All three speakers demanded council opt to hold a full public hearing, arguing the scope of the project warrants one, regardless of current city policy.

“The provincial guidelines that [OCP-conforming proposals] do not require a public hearing were never intended to circumvent the legitimate concerns of taxpayers and residents,” North Delta resident David Knowles told council.

Knowles, who is with a group calling itself “Delta Residents for Responsible Densification” and who was among the organizers of the successful effort to stop a 35-storey highrise from being built at 75A Avenue and Scott Road in 2019, said the way residents mobilized back then proves that “this is not the vision that the community has for our city.”

“It is with great regret that we, the North Delta residents, find ourselves again having to defend and protect the North Delta values that you are about to [destroy],” he said.

“The fact that you have doubled down and moved on to your next victims, this time deliberately avoiding a public hearing, clearly shows your total disregard for community input, and [that you] have put the input of developers ahead of voters.”

The heated debate surrounding the 75A highrise proposal led Harvie to form the Mayor’s Housing Task Force for Scott Road in early 2020, which included 14 North Delta residents as well as the mayor and senior city staff.

In its report, published in October that same year, the task force envisioned the area around Scott Road and 80th Avenue as a mix of townhouses and “stacked townhouses” up to four storeys, mixed-use and residential buildings up to six storeys, and mixed-use and residential towers up to 18 storeys.

READ MORE: Walkable mixed-use neighbourhoods focus of task force’s vision for Scott Road

To date, the task force’s recommendations have not been adopted by the city as the bulk of them require changing the OCP for North Delta, a process that involves robust public consultation and a public hearing prior to council approval.

Opponents to the Delta Shoppers proposal questioned why mayor and council would allow the project even though it exceeds the maximum height recommended by the task force.

Jasper, who organized the petitions included in Monday’s correspondence package, said even without the project’s added density, there exists a need for more amenities in the community such as a third recreation centre and local hospital other than Delta Hospital in Ladner and crowded Surrey Memorial, which she described as being “in crisis.”

“We go to Royal Columbian [in New Westminster] because it’s better to risk taking your patient across the river than to take them to Surrey. It’s a sad situation,” she said.

Jasper also pointed to existing traffic backups in the area, saying hundreds of added residents will only exacerbate the problem.

Pat Zawalykut said the project will do nothing to address housing affordability, arguing the development will “become a sea of rentals, owned by rich [people] from wherever, and quite probably become the ghetto of Delta.

“These units will not be affordable to those who need them. This growth is not sustainable. Affordability is a dream, but these projects are a dream come true for developers who profit from this atmosphere of build, build, build,” he said.

In May, Delta was named by B.C.’s Housing Ministry as one of 10 cities subject to new housing targets under legislation passed last year.

Ministry and city staff met over the summer for a broad-strokes discussion as to what the targets for Delta will be, and the city was given 30 days to respond before the province finalized those goals.

The province is expected to publicly release the specific targets for each of the 10 cities this fall, after which municipalities will have six months to show meaningful progress.

RELATED: Tenant and rental stock protections adopted by Delta council

SEE ALSO: B.C. sets maximum rent increase for 2024 at 3.5%

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James Smith

About the Author: James Smith

James Smith is the founding editor of the North Delta Reporter.
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