Watching the back and forth debate on the Southlands issue has been interesting. On one side, we have a number of people who don't want to see development on the property. On the other side is a developer who has held this agricultural property for decades in the hopes of one day planting houses.
And in the middle are a mayor and council on the hot seat - any decision they deliver will be seen as a victory for one side, and a huge defeat for the other.
First of all, developers will be watching this carefully, wondering if they should invest in Delta. A favourable decision in their eyes will set a new standard for working with the municipality on large-scale projects.
On the other side is a number of people, how large is debateable. By last count, a good guess would be about two-thirds of the Tsawwassen population, based on the two public surveys previously conducted. Oh, yes, while I did say people, I should have written voters.
So how can council win? No matter which way it ends up on this decision, one group will be choked. Upset the developers, and they will take their money somewhere else.
Upset the populous and re-election becomes more difficult. It seems council members are stuck between a rock and a hard place.
Or are they? According to Delta's process chart for the application, the next stage is seeking direction of council to draft a bylaw to alter the Official Community Plan.
If council approves this on Dec. 17, it will consider the bylaw in January. Should it pass first and second readings then, the issue is referred to Metro Vancouver for review.
If it passes Metro Vancouver's review, it's back on Delta's plate for a couple more rounds and a final decision.
If I were a betting man (and I am - I have the recycled 6/49 tickets to prove it!) here's what I think will happen that might just save face for council with both groups:
1. On Dec. 17, council will approve the drafting of a bylaw. Who's going to be watching? It's eight days before Christmas, so no one will spend much time arguing about it. So it will be largely forgotten until a couple of weeks into the new year.
2. In January, it will pass first and second readings. A little heat from the masses, but, hey, once it's done council isn't in control any more!
3. The issue is referred to Metro Vancouver, out of Delta's hands.
If I were council, I'd have my fingers crossed it doesn't get past this point.
If it gets stopped at Metro Vancouver, council can say it supported the developer, but since the application doesn't proceed, the public will be appeased as well. This is a win-win situation for council.
But if Metro allows the OCP change, all bets are off. The pressure will really be on council then.
If this timing was planned all along, I have to tip my hat to whoever put this schedule together.
But if it wasn't planned that way, are civic politicians sure are lucky.
I wonder if they can help me pick my numbers.