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Viable not always in the plans

When it comes to Delta's commercial areas, there seems to be a difference between what's viable and what's desirable.

When it comes to Delta's commercial areas, there seems to be a difference between what's viable and what's desirable.

When civic politicians discussed redevelopment plans for the Ladner waterfront once again last week, it was clear that building heights continue to be a sticking point. Developers are always after a certain number of storeys in order to make a project financially viable whereas residents typically want to see structures of a less imposing nature.

During the debate, Coun. Scott Hamilton stressed that developers won't buy into what's envisioned for the waterfront unless it makes financial sense for them to do so, marking the latest instance where a vision for a particular area of our community hasn't necessarily matched the fiscal reality.

During Tsawwassen Area Plan discussions a couple of years ago owners of commercial properties were asked why a concept developed for the town core two decades earlier hadn't come to fruition.

The short answer was that it didn't make financial sense.

The same is happening in North Delta, where a review of the area plan got underway earlier this year with much lamenting over the state of Scott Road, or at least the North Delta side of it.

Across the street in Surrey there has been significant development, but the North Delta side has remained, for the most part, stagnant and looks quite tired in stretches.

The debate is not always about height, as there are also issues about density, development cost charges, property taxes and the like, but invariably it boils down to whether developers believe they can make a buck. And when that question is asked in Delta, often times the answer has been no, which is why the Ladner waterfront has remained an afterthought and the commercial areas in all three communities have remained relatively status quo.

It's a conundrum for civic officials as they try to balance the preservation of our small town charm with the need to keep up to date and ensure vibrancy of the municipality's commercial sector.

Turning Delta into Richmond or Surrey isn't going to fly, nor should it, but too much small town thinking can prevent progress (and I'm referring to the welcomed kind that actually improves our quality of life, not the less desirable progress for progress sake).

Our limited population means we'll never be a fit for certain enterprises, but there are many others that might set up shop here if the situation is right. More often that not, that hasn't been the case.

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