One of the longest development sagas in B.C. will move forward to a public hearing in the fall following a decision by Delta council on Monday night (July 29).
The Southlands proposal, which calls for 950 homes and townhomes on 45 hecatres of land with a further 172 hectares designated for farmland and public space, received first and second reading and will go before the public on Oct. 28 and 29 in Tsawwassen.
Century Group president Sean Hodgins thanked municipal staff for putting together the 26-page development application with an additional 28 attachments totaling 233 pages.
“For the past two and a half years since the Mayor’s Summit and for seven years since we started the dialogue with the community on the future of the Southlands we’ve worked very hard,” said Hodgins, adding in his two decades in the development business he’s never seen a more thorough report.
Hodgins said the plan has a 15-year buildout based on market cycles and construction time. It would take several years before the first houses started appearing, with a first phase of 450 homes over a six or seven year period. Two final phases would follow over the next eight years to build the remaining 500 homes.
“It’s not every day that we’re building, it’s not every day that we’re selling homes, but there’s a staging that we would do over approximately three broad phases of the project.”
Southlands architect Patrick Cotter said the development will “become an integral and valued part of the community of Tsawwassen in the future,” adding public ownership of the farmland will provide people with a continued voice over its use.
Cotter said there will be hedgerows and other natural buffer spaces separating the residential lots from the commercial farming. Local roads to be created within the area, such as the one connecting Fourth Avenue to 56th Street, would give farm vehicles the right-of-way.
Coun. Ian Paton asked whether the farm vehicle entrance off 56th Street would be preserved to allow better access to farmers.
“Maybe this is a good point to remind Coun. Paton that this would be your land,” said Cotter to chuckles from the audience. “And if you determine that good farm vehicle access is plus then yes, absolutely, we have no reason to remove it before dedicating the land to Delta.”
The plan would involve a $9 million investment from Century Group to create the Delta Community Based Farm District, which includes improving soil quality to agricultural grade, drainage improvements, irrigation, construction of farm building infrastructure, and a Market Square. At the end of a 10-year period the land – 80 per cent of the development’s total – would be transferred to public ownership.
Because the Southlands was removed from the Agricultural Land Reserve in 1981, Delta is not required to seek ministry approval for any bylaw changes and farming is already a permitted use.
Coun. Robert Campbell said he would need to see some financial certainty with respect to the viability of the project, particularly given the length of the buildout, and expects answers to those questions during the public hearing.
Coun. Bruce MacDonald said the community-based farming proposal looks similar to Burnaby’s farms along southwest Marine Drive.
“There’s examples of it in many, many areas, certainly in North America and other places,” he said, adding the 10-year phase during which time Century Group will develop the farmland offers Delta a risk-free window of opportunity to see if the plan works.
There has been indications public support for the proposal has shifted in favour in recent months. According to correspondence received by the Corporation of Delta from Nov. 17, 2012 and June 14, 2013, there are 51 per cent of people in support, with 41 per cent opposed.
But counting all correspondence the municipality has received on the project since it was first submitted Oct. 3, 2011, just 27 per cent have expressed support, while 67 per cent are opposed.
“The numbers provided by Delta staff clearly show 70 per cent opposition to this proposal yet council persists in forcing the community to ensure yet another inconvenient and costly public hearing.” said Dana Maslovat, one of the organizers of Southlands the Facts, which opposes the development. “It is extremely disappointing and clear that the time, energy and costs of collecting public opinion over the past few years were simply a pretense, and council have no intent to honour the wishes of the community.”
In addition to concerns about increased traffic and construction, Maslovat said there are still unanswered questions about the project.