The sharp divide and bitter feelings were on full display Wednesday at the North Delta Recreation Centre as the public hearing for a contentious high-rise proposal concluded.
Accusations were flying during the second day of the hearing where residents had their say on the application by Arzone Real Estate Investments Ltd. and Hari Homes Inc. to build a 35-storey tower at the corner of 75A Avenue and Scott Road.
The hearing had over 180 speakers including several who went for a second go-around, each side expressing anger over what the other had been saying, several complaining they felt insulted.
One speaker in favour noted those who support the project are more of a multicultural group, as opposed to opponents, but one person who spoke against the plan immediately argued those who don’t like the project come from different ethnic backgrounds as well.
Another speaker in favour pointed out the city a year earlier had attempted to pass new zoning regulations restricting lot sizes that can be subdivided, which clearly targeted one segment who refuse to be treated like second-class citizens anymore.
Opponent Carl Strand, who gathered over 1,600 names on petitions, said he felt angry and appalled that young people criticized his living in a single-family homes for the past forty years.
Linda Erikson directed her comments to Coun. Dylan Kruger, saying he told the media how he couldn’t believe the number of young people voicing concerns, desperate for that type of housing, but, in fact, their issues can be accommodated through the current zoning.
The second day of the hearing also heard many of the same arguments as the day prior from supporters of the project including younger people who came to speak about the need for Delta to have more affordable housing options, so their generation isn’t forced to move elsewhere.
Several older residents said their kids grew up in the community and would like to stay close to family and friends rather than being forced to move out to places like Langley and Chilliwack.
Others said they understand the concerns but the positives outweigh those concerns, and that times including housing needs are changing.
The application by Arzone Real Estate Investments Ltd. and Hari Homes Inc. is for 329 units in a 35-storey structure, as well as several townhomes. It includes 70 of those units available under the Affordable Home Ownership Program, in partnership with B.C. Housing, aimed at middle-income earners.
Opponents expressed concerns such as traffic impacts and the suitability of the project at the proposed location.
Many also said the five-year-old Official Community Plan should be followed, some saying a developer shouldn’t be allowed to override the OCP.
They also pointed out the site is not within a designated high-rise node for Scott Road, one speaker asking what happened to the corridor’s transition zones which only call for low-to-medium rise developments.
Responding to supporters who said Delta was behind other Lower Mainland cities, like Burnaby and Coquitlam, where high-rises are being built, they argued those developments are taking place in close proximity to rapid transit.
Some said affordable housing is a national issue and that proponents are clouding the issue in order to scrap the OCP.
However, several who spoke in support, saying the developer shouldn’t be vilified, noted there’s a clear demand for that type of condo housing.
Some openly asked the opposition where they expect their adult kids to live, adding the city’s first high-rise on Scott Road, the Delta Rise, turned out to be a good project
The validity of the claims by supporters that they live in Delta has to be questioned, according to a couple of speakers opposed, while several in favour argued they are life-long residents who are just as entitled to have their say.
Several opposed also said younger people shouldn’t feel entitled to live wherever they want at the expense of existing neighbourhoods.
One opponent said the steady stream of young people asking council to abandon the OCP, ignoring the wishes of the vast majority of North Deltans, shows “immature and unrealistic exceptions” which leads him to wonder where the younger generation is headed.
Another opponent, Dave Dube, said he was disrespected by younger people at the hearing, adding, “I have three daughters, all grew up in Delta. They were born here, grew up here, went to school here. They all live in other areas. One lives in Surrey, one lives in Aldergrove, one lives in Chilliwack that everybody here wants to slam so much. They went there because that’s where life took them, that’s where they could afford to live, that’s where they’re raising their families. But at some point they might want to look to come back here, but they don’t want to come back here to the major changes that are being contemplated by this particular project...
“Saying no to this project will not take away opportunities for our young people, do not be fooled by that argument. But it will send a clear message to developers that Delta will do business with those developers who want to support our vision, not their vision for Delta.”
Deb Jones accused the city of sowing the seeds of doubt for the corridor by indicating to developers Delta may not be adhering to the OCP, while others questioned supporters’ ties to the realty and development industries.
Saying now that Delta has changed its title to be a city, it should act like one, realtor Randy Mann stressed more such inventory is needed. Realtor Fraser Elliot noted it’s the type of housing that’s badly needed, adding the vast majority of units sold in the Delta Rise were to local residents.
One of the final speakers Wednesday told council there’s been much damage as a result of the application and the hearing, asking what council can do to mend the situation.
The second day of the hearing concluded at 11 p.m. with council agreeing to consider third reading for the project at their next regular meeting on Monday, Dec. 2 at 7 p.m. at the Kennedy Seniors’ Centre.