The application process to develop the Southlands in Tsawwassen with a mix of housing and farms will continue for the next several months at least.
On Monday, Delta council gave the go-ahead for planning staff to write a report on giving the application first and second reading.
Council was originally to have received that report in mid-January, but that's been pushed back until mid-February to early March. Before that happens, another public meeting will be held by Delta to present more information on the proposal.
If council grants preliminary approval early next year to move the proposal to the next phase, civic politicians would decide whether to send it to a public hearing or on to Metro Vancouver for comment.
Saying they are not trying to prolong the application, CAO George Harvie explained details are still needed, including such issues as flood proofing and how the "Delta community-based farm district" would function, to present to the public and eventually to council to consider.
Noting planning staff would continue to work with the applicant, deputy director of community planning Marcy Sangret updated council on how much correspondence the municipality has received on the application. She noted that, so far, there have been 1,076 pieces from residents opposed, not including those who signed petitions. A total of 248 letters were in favour, while 74 had just general comments.
Wondering how long the process would continue, Coun. Bruce McDonald said, "Ultimately this thing has to come to an end one way or another."
Council agreed to have staff continue to work with the Century Group to get all the answers, although Coun. Sylvia Bishop pointed out that would be done despite the overwhelming opposition expressed in the correspondence.
It's been a long road for Century Group president Sean Hodgins to even make it to this juncture. He presented his initial development vision for the Southlands in 2006.
Last year, a public hearing was held on Delta's proposal to apply to have the 215-hectare (536-acre) property placed back in the Agricultural Land Reserve, but that hearing was halted after the community's deep division was apparent.
A closed-door summit at municipal hall was then held, where Hodgins, who had earlier pitched a larger development, was given the green light to come forward with a scaled down proposal.
The one now before council includes 950 housing units on 20 per cent of the property with the Century Group handing over the remaining 80 per cent to Delta.
Following the design principles of new urbanism and agricultural urbanism, Hodgins hopes much of the land deeded to Delta is used for what he describes as community-based farming. On Monday, it was noted Hodgins is also willing to see large tracts used for more conventional farming.
The development continues to face fierce opposition from some quarters, including Southlands the Facts.
The group last week said it filed a complaint with the provincial ombudsperson, accusing council of "unethical conduct and actions." That complaint stems from the group saying it was accused of publishing false information concerning the municipality's legal right to pass bylaws preventing greenhouses or other forms of industrial farming on the Southlands.
"In looking the correspondence received by staff and council over the past few months, well over 80 per cent of the letters are in opposition to this development. It is once again clear that this development does not have the support of the community and thus council should not proceed with the proposal," stated spokesperson Dana Maslovat last week.
Unlike the highly controversial TDL housing application for the property in the late 1980s, which drew overwhelmingly negative opposition, the proposal by the Century Group has its supporters.
The majority of speakers at the public hearing last year on Delta's ALR proposal spoke in opposition, saying the previous development proposal by Hodgins, which was handed back to him without council consideration, wasn't given a fair chance.
Most of those who attended Monday's meeting were clearly opposed to the current application, many leaving disappointed the process would continue.
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