On the eve of municipal elections, Delta Council has unanimously voted to begin amending its Official Community Plan, paving the way for a highly controversial housing development by Century Group atop the Southlands (aka Spetifore Farm). The October 17 decision could override a recent lengthy public consultation process that rejected changes to the Tsawwassen Area Plan (one of three communities that constitute Delta) to rezone the property for development.
“Given the two years and hundreds of thousands of taxpayers’ dollars spent on updating the Tsawwassen Area Plan, I am extremely disappointed that Mayor and Council are proceeding with this application,” said Dana Maslovat of Southlands the Facts, a community group fighting to save the farmland.
“The public has clearly indicated their wishes to keep this land agricultural and it makes me wonder why all that time and money was spent to update our Area Plan if it is to be changed almost immediately. Furthermore, they are proceeding with a change to the Official Community Plan without a specific development proposal which is basically akin to giving the developer a blank cheque.”
The 500-plus acre parcel of land in Tsawwassen’s Boundary Bay was removed from the ALR by a 1981 order in council – at the urging of several ruling Scored MLAs who were interested in developing the property at the time. The order overruled the Agricultural Land Commission, which opposed the property’s development, based on its high soil quality – yet the Southlands has remained protected by its municipal agricultural zoning.
Despite numerous polls and meetings over the past several decades that have consistently demonstrated the community’s overwhelming opposition to rezoning the Southlans for development, Delta Council is now poised to override the Tsawwassen Area Plan and push ahead with the unpopular proposal from Century Group that could see between 1,000 and 2,000 homes on the property.
There will be some form of public consultation before the amendment to the Delta OCP is ratified, which sets the stage for yet another round of heated criticism of the plan. According to Maslovat, “A proposed timeline would involve public information meetings early in 2012 with a possible Public Hearing in the spring. The OCP designation change application was submitted without a specific development plan application, which would involve a separate process and Public Hearing.”
It remains to be seen what political fallout will arise from the decision, which comes just one month prior to municipal elections.
Watch this recent documentary by Damien Gillis on the battle over the Southlands