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Southlands hearing abruptly ends

The public hearing on the controversial Southlands development proposal will no longer hear oral submissions, essentially ending what has been a divisive proceeding.
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Century Group president Sean Hodgins chats with opponents following conclusion of Saturday's hearing.

The public hearing on the controversial Southlands development proposal will no longer hear oral submissions, essentially ending what has been a divisive proceeding.

On Saturday afternoon, well into the fifth day of the hearing held at the South Delta Recreation Centre, Mayor Lois Jackson announced that it has been decided that enough presentations were heard and she made the call under the Local Government Act to end that part of the hearing.

Over 470 names at the time were on the speakers list, although there had been many no-shows when called, as well as more than 60 on another list wanting a second chance to speak.

The mayor read a statement, which read, “Over the five Public Hearing days, Council heard over 25 hours of presentations by over 350 speakers. Since first reading of the bylaws, Council received over 1,400 written submissions, plus petitions and form letters in support of and in opposition to the bylaws and permits. At the time the Public Hearing adjourned, there were still numerous names on the speakers list and the amount of additional time that might be required to hear all oral submissions was unknown.”

The mayor noted the hearing was only adjourned and that written submission will be accepted until noon this Thursday. Council will reconvene the hearing on Friday at 9 a.m. at municipal hall to ask any further questions and consider officially ending the hearing.

Saturday’s session began in the morning with familiar arguments for and against the proposal.

The oral part of the hearing was put to an end as opponents through an e-mail the previous evening urged people to show up, even it was simply to state their name and they were opposed to the development application.

The Century Group is proposing to develop the 536-acre Southlands property in Tsawwassen with 950 housing units on 20 per cent on the site. Century would hand over 80 per cent of the land to Delta. Much of that land would be used for farming, including the creation what’s described as a community-based farming district. The proposal also includes a market square. The company would fund drainage and irrigation improvements.

Demonstrating the division in the community, the hearing was almost split with supporters and those speaking in opposition. In the end, the opposition speakers outnumbered those in favour, but not by a large margin.

Opponents again insisted the site could be farmed, as well as that the development was in the wrong location.

Several also reiterated their objection to being described as NIMBY or a naysayer.

One speaker said those in favour should ”get real” and understand they’re not entitled to move to Boundary Bay.

Several also questioned the affordability of the proposed housing, suggesting Century Group focus on the town core.

One opponent urged Century Group president Sean Hodgins to leave a more meaningful legacy by converting the property into parkland.

Supporters reiterated the need for a better mix of housing. They also said the land needs to be improved to be farmed at its fullest potential.

Several descried the application as innovative and one that will be a major benefit for the entire community.

Supporters also noted the community needs change because it’s stagnating, contrary to the view of opponents who said nothing is wrong with Tsawwassen.

A 1,700—name petition of Delta residents in favour was submitted.

Following the conclusion of Saturday’s session, Hodgins told the Optimist he was surprised and humbled by the number of people who came out to show support.

“I’ve been working on something that meets community approval for seven years. Clearly, it’s a divided community but when you look at that petition we submitted, all Delta residents and addresses, I feel very gratified people took the time,” he said.

“There was a real mix of people who said they like the plan and wanted to see some growth in the community and they trust us to deliver on what we said we’re going to do. There’s been a lot of expectation what this plan can and can’t do. The biggest thing is this has a long way to go,” he added.