From the Vancouver Sun – March 4, 2011
by Sandor Gyarmati
METRO VANCOUVER — Three days of a public hearing this week have
shown how the Southlands is still as divisive an issue as ever for
The third evening of the public hearing on the
proposed Tsawwassen Area Plan took place at the South Delta Recreation
Centre on Thursday.
The crowd of roughly 150 was noticeably
thinner than the first day of the hearing Tuesday, when more than 400
came to hear submissions on the contentious 538-acre Southlands
A controversial recommendation in the area plan by CAO
George Harvie would see Delta apply to the Agricultural Land Commission
to have the Southlands placed back in the Agricultural Land Reserve.
property was removed from the reserve amid much controversy three
decades ago, but the proposal to have the land put back has proved just
Only seven people, all in favour of Delta’s
proposal, got to speak on the recommendation when the item came up for
input during the first evening of the hearing, including Southlands the
Facts spokesperson Dana Maslovat, who said inclusion in the ALR would
ensure the community’s wishes are met.
However, the majority of
speakers the following evening, by about a three-to-one margin, spoke in
opposition to the recommendation, including former councillor and
provincial agriculture minister John Savage, who said he tried to farm
the Southlands but had only marginal crops due to poor soil quality.
opposed also outnumbered those in favour during Thursday’s session, by
about a two-to-one margin, with many of the speakers and others in the
audience showing support for the property owner, the Century Group, by
wearing green anti-ALR T-shirts.
Many of the same arguments by
opponents expressed in the previous two evenings were conveyed to Delta
council Thursday, including the lack of due process for the affected
landowners, a disrespect shown for Century Group president Sean Hodgins,
handing over local control to an outside agency and the undetermined
irrigation and drainage costs that would hit taxpayers to upgrade the
land for farming.
Several speakers also expressed dismay at the
Tsawwassen Area Plan process itself and that the community wasn’t
afforded the chance to have a dialogue on the Century Group’s
development proposal, which would have combined housing with urban
Some also warned of the consequences, including the
landowner having no choice but to build a large greenhouse on the
property, which would create much strife with the surrounding
Several speakers on both sides also conveyed dismay at their opposition, accusing each other of bullying tactics.
of the speakers asked if there was any room for compromise, noting they
were opposed to the ALR inclusion but the 1,900 homes proposed by the
Century Group were too many.
Helen Kettle, who was on the
Tsawwassen Area Plan Committee as well as Century Group’s Southlands
Community Planning Team, argued Century’s proposal was never given a
chance for a fair review.
“With all due respect, I believe many in
this community have been unduly influenced by a small and vocal group
at a time when thoughtful people are aware of the pressing need to
retain and enhance local agriculture capability,” she said.
very easy for individuals to join the cry to retain agricultural land
… they offer a simplistic solution to a multi-faceted problem. What is
the problem? The problem is how to make the best use of a large piece
of land in the middle of a built-up community.”
should be able to handle its own issues rather than trying to hand them
off to other authorities, Firth Bateman suggested Ladner and North Delta
also be included in any discussions when it comes to having the
Southlands in the ALR.
He was also critical of the “veiled animosity and lack of respect” in the public hearing.
speaking in favour Thursday included Richmond Coun. Harold Steves, who
noted his city council voted to have the Garden City and Terra Nova
lands put into Metro Vancouver’s Green Zone. He said the Southlands had
drainage and irrigation provided when the Spetifore family owned it,
however, the new owner never maintained it and allowed the site to go
Resident Peter Malim echoed the words of several
supporters of the recommendation about the importance of retaining and
preserving agricultural land. He described supporters of the Century
plan as an “insular and closeted minority,” which drew scoffs from the
“They’ve tried in vain to convince us that much of the
land is unfarmable. They’ve tried in vain to sell us on such terms as
agricultural urbanism and have tried to greenwash their construction
plans to help us to digest them,” he said.
“We have to make it
clear to speculators that it will no longer be acceptable to buy up this
country’s prime farmland and expect to build houses on them,” Malim
Hodgins told the Optimist after the first session Tuesday he would probably speak as well.
After three nights the speakers’ list included 135 names, 89 of which had spoken.
The hearing resumes Monday at 7 p.m, this time at municipal hall.
Read original article