Delta council voted in favour of proposed Ladner Village Official Community Plan (OCP) amendments following a public hearing Tuesday night.
Speakers gave their thoughts via Zoom and in-person on the changes aimed at revitalizing the village and waterfront.
The amendments are to encourage redevelopment by allowing higher density including new buildings up to six storeys, depending on the location.
Council heard opposition primarily about the height allowance.
They also heard from residents and members of the business community in favour, including those saying local businesses are desperate for the changes and that more affordable housing options are needed.
Those who spoke in favour outnumbered opponents by a wide margin.
Yvonne Anderson, chair of the Delta Chamber of Commerce, told council Delta needs healthy businesses that can attract and retain employees.
It was a similar message repeated by others in support, one saying the plan is an important one, but also still appears conservative.
Another speaker said creating vibrant neighbourhoods requires courage and vision and bowing to “Saturday morning urban planners” would not make for good leadership.
Patricia Cleave, a member of the Ladner Village Renewal Advisory Committee, said it’s a long-term vision for a viable and sustainable village, and that not every building would be allowed to go up to six storeys.
Noting there are many people and families in Ladner being pushed out due to housing costs, another speaker in favour said the charm of the village could still be maintained.
Saying the city should listen to the concern of residents, opponent Gary MacKinnon said it appears the committee had been led from the start to a pre-determined recommendation.
Also saying three storeys is more suitable, while allowing four would be a bonus for developers, he said the plan does not address traffic and parking needs.
Community planning director Marcy Sangret later explained each redevelopment application would be required to conduct a parking and traffic analysis.
Another resident at the hearing noted the waterfront proposal looks like a good one but six-storey buildings would detract from the area.
Resident Vicki Huntington asked why there must always be a struggle to preserve Delta’s heritage, saying Ladner Village is a charming, quant and historic place. Adding there has already been a lot of densification in surrounding areas of Ladner, she said a vote in favour is a “vote for cultural negligence.”
Later in the speakers’ list, Delta Chamber executive director Jill McKnight said change is inevitable whether the OCP is approved or not, so what’s needed is a well-thought out, full community plan.
Another resident warned Ladner Village is headed to becoming a ghost town and without vitality the village won’t survive.
Speaking on behalf of the Ladner Business Association, Valerie Miller said a survey of members found overwhelming support.
Another speaker, expressing concerns, questioned how many businesses took part in that survey.
Saying residents were left mostly out of the consultation, resident Bev Yaworski claimed the recommendations were based on “incomplete, biased research”.
Resident Brian Webb, saying he helped gather a petition with almost 600 names, said they are not opposed to the plan, but are simply asking that maximum building heights be limited to four storeys.
A speaker in favour said council should show courage in the face of fear mongering and disinformation and that leaving things as-is would be “devastating”.
Also in favour, Jack Bates noted the Surrey CO-OP grain tower at eight-to-nine storeys in height had been in the heart of village for decades before coming down. He warned “what stays the same dies”.
Coun. Bruce McDonald, who chaired the committee, said during council’s discussion following the conclusion of the public hearing, that the village was described as a fading area when he was first elected in 1987.
Any development application would still require council approval, he noted, adding there were no developers on the committee.
Coun. Jeannie Kanakos echoed that support, saying Delta is establishing a framework to move the village forward over the coming years.
Also a committee member, Coun. Dylan Kruger said various councils over the decades attempted village renewal.
The proposed height allowance was considered a good compromise by the committee, he said.
Saying she’s struggled with her decision and “cannot turn a blind eye to the community at large”, an emotional Coun. Alicia Guichon was the lone councillor opposed.
Guichon said she’s opposed to altering the character of the village and is standing up for its history by not supporting the six-storey maximum.
Mayor George Harvie described the current state of Ladner Village as an unfortunate one.
Noting six storeys would not be an automatic and many conditions would have to be met once any proposals come forward, Harvie said council, and not the development community, would make special housing considerations for the area.
Despite Guichon voting in the negative, council had enough votes for the OCP amendments by a 4-1 margin.
Coun. Dan Copeland did not attend the public hearing, while Coun. Lois Jackson is currently on a leave of absence.