Delta residents jammed the spacious gymnasium of North Delta Secondary Wednesday evening to hear the latest plans for a controversial 89-acre mixed use development proposed at Highway 91 and 72nd Avenue, near to the sensitive Burns Bog wetlands.
The developers, MK Delta Lands, provided visitors with stations offering information on transportation, hydrology, environment, land use, and other topics, complete with photographs and mockups during the first hour. The 100-plus people then sat down for a formal presentation for an hour and a half, during which time the key planners and consultants on the project explained what they wanted to do.
“Everyone’s thoughts are important to us,” said MK Delta Lands president Joanne Barnett. “If you’re here because you think this is the worst idea you’ve ever heard, your opinion is welcome.”
We want to assure you that everything you have to say will be taken seriously, she said, adding an application would be going forward to Delta council based on the feedback from the open house.
Project planner Mark Holland praised the Burns Bog Conservation Society for their efforts in raising awareness about the nearby bog’s recent designation as an internationally recognized Ramsar Site for its value as a sensitive wetland.
The site itself has traditionally been used to peat extraction and mining dating back to the Second World War, while the land is currently zoned industrial.
Holland said their land is in a “transition” stage between a “heather” and the peat bog that makes up the majority of the protected Burns Bog, but that everything they’re proposing is “extremely respectful of the ecosystem.”
Eliza Olson, president of the Burns Bog Conservation Society, was on hand to see the presentation. She’s been a vocal opponent of the development and was surprised to see MK Delta Lands had provided an eight-page handout to everybody attending which offered a “response” to the Society’s mailings.
Paul Skydt, environmental consultant on the project, said some people will never favour development there, but others see it as an opportunity to create diverse housing in North Delta.
“MK Delta does not want to propose a development on the conservancy lands,” he said, adding they want to retain as much tree canopy and wetlands as possible, with a 45 per cent footprint on the land. They intend to use the existing trees lining Highway 91 as a natural sight and noise barrier (called a landscape buffer) to the development.
One of the plan’s options calls for a mixed commercial neighbourhood with residential apartments above the shops, and canopies covering spacious sidewalks, bike lanes, and diagonal parking to reduce congestion.
Michael Richardson, transportation planner, said 70,000 cars go through the 91/72 intersection daily and a traffic study showed the intersections surrounding the area scored poorly. Any development would require intersection improvements from the developer, with added funding from the province and federal government.
David Tuck, who has lived 40 years at 72nd Avenue and 112th Street, said he’s concerned with already terrible traffic getting worse.
“I can see the traffic lined up at 72nd Avenue at six-thirty in the morning,” he said.
Overall, the audience received the presentation politely. There was only one outburst after options “A” and “B” were presented when a person from the audience yelled out, “what about option C,” implying no development at all. At the conclusion there was one more outburst as somebody said, “leave it the way it is.”
Bob Cottingham, a Westview Drive resident since 1986, found the whole experience “frustrating.”
He said the presentation was professional but didn’t give people a chance to voice their opinions publicly.
“The sense I’m getting, I think the majority of people feel this is not a piece of land that should be developed,” he said.
Instead, people were invited to submit their comments privately on paper.
Not everyone viewed the proposal negatively.
Kathleen Higgins, a resident on 108th Street, said she sees it as an opportunity for the development to experiment with case study homes that are compact, ground-oriented, detached, and do not have strata fees.
She said it would appeal to seniors on a fixed income that want to have a virtually maintenance-free neighbourhood as well as first-time buyers who want to get into a detached home.
“I spoke to people afterward and I’m trusting them that they’re going to make a place where this can happen.”