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Decision time on Southlands plan

Century group proposal for controversial tsawwassen property to go before municipal politicians on monday

The application to develop the controversial Southlands property in Tsawwassen will reach another critical juncture on Monday.

That's when Delta council is set to decide what to do with the proposal by the Century Group, which formally submitted an application almost two years ago that's slowly wound its way through a lengthy and complex process.

A report by Delta CAO George Harvie lays out three options for councillors: refer the application back to staff again for more information, give it preliminary approval and send it to a public hearing, or deny it.

Should council decide to move the proposal forward, a public hearing would be held at the South Delta Recreation Centre starting Oct. 28.

In his report, Harvie noted staff has dedicated a considerable amount of the time processing the application, including hosting several public information meetings. The Southlands site actually comprises seven properties with a combined area of 217 hectares (537 acres). The application involves a request for 950 residential units in various forms and densities, including single-family homes, townhomes, apartments and live-work units, on 20 per cent of the site. The application also involves over 7,400 square metres (80,000 square feet) of commercial space.

Century is proposing to construct a connector road, which would extend from 3rd Avenue and Boundary Bay Road to 4th Avenue and 56th Street.

Century is also proposing to transfer 172 hectares (425 acres) of land to Delta, amounting to 80 per cent of the site. That would be used for agriculture, natural habitat, public open space, including Market Square, and greenways. In addition to land, the owner is proposing to transfer ownership of the Alexander/Gunn House and the Red Barn to Delta. Both buildings are in the proposed Market Square area. Century

would also construct a new multi-use community building in the Market Square area.

As well, Century proposes to provide a $9-million amenity contribution that would be put in a special reserve to improve drainage and irrigation as well as lease back approximately 18.7.hectares (46 acres) from Delta for small-scale farming. The remainder of the agricultural land that would be transferred to Delta would be leased for larger scale, soil-based farming.

The site is zoned agricultural but hasn't been in the Agricultural Land Reserve for over 30 years. The application would also require Metro Vancouver's approval.

The Southlands has a history of controversy, including a record-breaking public hearing in 1989, and has long divided the community. The current application faces stiff opposition from many in Tsawwassen, but it also has supporters.

"Given the overwhelming opposition to this development, including over 70 percent of the almost 2,000 pieces of correspondence received to date, I can't imagine what rationale would allow council to proceed with a public hearing." stated Dana Maslovat, one of the organizers of Southlands the Facts.

"Over the past three years, staff and council have spent countless taxpayers' dollars collecting an enormous volume of community opinion that show staunch majority opposition. To continue with a public hearing clearly shows that community opinion has been completely ignored in this process," he said.

Supporters haven't organized into a formal group, but several in favour gathered for an interview with the Optimist earlier this year.

"The community is a divided community and there is a lot of aggravation between the two groups. We need a plan that will join the two forces," said longtime Beach Grove resident Lennart Osterlind.

Saying the plan addresses the need for housing for downsizers who want to stay in Tsawwassen, Osterlind noted he has friends in support of the proposal but feel intimidated in expressing their opinions.