By Adrian MacNair and Clayton Andres
Metro Vancouver has decided to send the MK Delta Lands development proposal back to the Corporation of Delta for a public hearing prior to determining its land use designation under the Regional Growth Strategy.
The North Delta application came before a Metro board meeting last Friday (July 26) and led to a heated discussion about whether the regional government should designate the land use question before residents of the municipality have had the opportunity to weigh in at a public hearing.
At the Metro meeting, Richmond Coun. Harold Steves argued that the proposal should be brought to Delta Council first. But Delta Mayor Lois Jackson said it was unclear how the municipality could proceed without first determining the land use question. In a back and forth with Chair Greg Moore, she argued that she wasn’t receiving a clear message on what the impact of a public hearing in Delta would be if third reading isn’t granted prior to returning it to Metro.
“The motion simply said that it would not come back to Metro Vancouver until Delta had had its public hearing,” said Jackson on Monday. “And my question then was, well, do you want Delta to also do third reading?”
Jackson said she was disappointed that Metro staff had advised the municipality go through a regional public hearing prior to one in Delta, only to be reversed by the board.
“It looks very poorly on Metro Vancouver in my opinion, it appeared that they didn’t really know what they were doing,” she added.
Delta’s chief administrative officer George Harvie said Monday that the municipality now will meet with the applicant in preparing for a local public hearing.
“They have changed and removed the outlet mall at the last moment so there’s quite a bit of work to do still on the application,” he said.
Prior to a public hearing, Harvie said the Corporation will need a defined number of housing units and exactly what commercial component, if any, is still on the table. It will take a number of months before all of that happens.
In many respects the process will mirror the one undertaken by Tsawwassen Springs when Metro told the developer to go through a local public hearing prior to regional approval.
The application by MK Delta Lands is to re-designate 36 hectares of land east of Highway 91 and south of 72nd Avenue in North Delta to “general urban” from “conservation and recreation.” Metro’s current designation is reserved for lands intended to “protect significant ecological assets.”
The applicant would develop 993 residential units and 36,000-square meters of commercial space on 55 per cent of the land, saving the rest for green space and conservation. The company has also agreed to contribute $10 million toward highway improvements and a roundabout near 64th Avenue. It also plans to donate 78 hectares of land west of Highway 91 to Delta so that it can be absorbed into the contiguous Burns Bog Conservation Area bordering the development.
Some environmentalist organizations such as the Burns Bog Conservation Society argue the development is within sensitive peatland area belonging to the bog and should not be developed. An online petition against the application started by the Burns Bog Conservation Society last May has garnered 1,600 signatures.
Municipally, the land is currently zoned I3 Extraction Industrial, and has historically been used for peat extraction operations. A legal opinion provided to Delta indicated the municipality would have little recourse to prohibit the owner from using for the land for its permitted use should the application be denied.