MK Delta Lands head back to the drawing board

The developers behind a proposed residential and commercial development next to Burns Bog will seek more public input.

The developers behind a proposed residential and commercial development at the corner of Highway 91 and 72nd Avenue will change their application and seek more public input prior to coming back with a new proposal.

Joanne Barnett, president of MK Delta Lands Group, said she’s satisfied the application is moving forward following a Metro Vancouver board meeting two weeks ago that indicated a public hearing will need to be held in Delta first.

However, Barnett said Delta did the right thing by approaching the regional government first.

“My understanding is that the process which Delta followed and requested is the actual process, but I guess the board in its wisdom is seeing some issues with that,” she said, adding it was inappropriate for the Metro board to chastise Delta for following the advice of its own staff.

But Eliza Olson, president of the non-profit Burns Bog Conservation Society, disagrees and said Delta was trying to sidestep the proper process by going to Metro Vancouver first.

“I can understand why the mayor would want to do that but it’s not telling Metro Vancouver what the will of the community is,” she said, adding if the zoning change was approved it would send a message to Delta that the development is a “done deal.”

Olson has collected a 5,000-name petition against any development on the land, which she considers sensitive peatland that could be considered the “lagg” of the nearby 3,000 hectare Burns Bog Ecological Conservancy.

The land in question is currently zoned Industrial-3 Extraction which allows uses such as peat extraction, asphalt and concrete mixing.

Although a legal opinion provided to the municipality in May indicated these uses are permissible today, MK Delta Lands has stated it does not have plans to pursue the permitted uses regardless of the status of the application.

But Olson said the municipality has the ability to change the zoning now to prevent the company from ever changing its mind.

“They can change the requirements within the zoning itself,” she said. “In fact, the Corporation of Delta amended that bylaw in 2007, which was three years after the conservation covenant.”

Delta’s chief administrative officer George Harvie said the municipality attempted to buy the land from MK Delta Lands in 2004 while signing a conservation agreement over 2,000 hectares of Burns Bog but couldn’t come up with the money.

MK Delta Lands will now seek municipal rezoning to mixed use residential which would also require approval from Metro Vancouver in rezoning the land under the Regional Growth Strategy to “general urban” from “conservation and recreation.”

Barnett said the company refine its plan based on public feedback, particularly with respect to the outlet mall, which has been scuttled. She said after meeting with members of the Sunshine Hills community she was convinced the mall wasn’t what people wanted.

“So, we’re going to go back and reduce the scale of the commercial and make it the neighbourhood that was originally requested by the community,” she said.

The new development application–expected to include over 900 units of housing and 14,000-square-meters of retail space–will involve many more months of public consultation. Olson said the public meetings aren’t meant to seek feedback but simply to “wear down the people” before the public hearing.

But Barnett said she welcomes any and all input.

“The environmental interests are what they are,” she said. “They have a role to play and we continue to be open to dialogue with them and hopefully at the end of the day they’ll be happy with the outcome.”

Surrey North Delta Leader

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