Metro Vancouver to vote on Southlands farmland in Delta

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History is going to be replayed Thursday (May 1) at the Burnaby offices of Metro Vancouver.

On that day, the regional authority will hold a public hearing on a plan to build homes on the contentious Southlands in Delta.

It won’t be the first time that it has attempted to decide the future of the Tsawwassen-area property once known as the Spetifore farm. That was 33 years ago. In 1981, the former Greater Vancouver Regional District rejected an application to rezone the land for housing development in return for an offer by then-owner George Spetifore to donate land for a public park.

In this continuing saga, Richmond councillor Harold Steves has had a front-row seat.

Steves cofounded B.C.’s Agricultural Land Reserve during his time as an MLA. Presently the concurrent vice-chair of the district’s regional planning and agriculture committee, which will conduct the public hearing, he’s worried about how the next chapter will go down.

“Back in 1981, Metro Vancouver said, ‘This is a very serious regional issue,’ ” Steves told the Georgia Straight in a phone interview. “What I’m hearing from my colleagues [now] is, ‘Oh, this is a Delta issue.’ ”

Steves wasn’t on the GVRD board in 1981 when he made a presentation against the development plan before the regional authority. That was a year after the provincial government removed 211 hectares of the Spetifore properties from the Agricultural Land Reserve.

Spetifore had offered 94 hectares of nonagricultural land in another parcel for Boundary Bay Regional Park. In an extremely close (33-32) weighted vote, GVRD directors decided to maintain the regional designation of the 211 hectares as farmland.

Steves recalled that inn 1990, the Spetifore lands were acquired by the late George Hodgins for about $15 million.

Hodgins was the founder of Century Industries Ltd., the company that now wants to build 950 homes and commercial spaces on a portion of the land.

There’s a rub, according to Steves. In 1999, Metro Vancouver paid Hodgins about $7.5 million for the 94 hectares that were originally offered for free by Spetifore. The land now forms part of Boundary Bay Regional Park.

“We paid Mr. Hodgins half of the value of the entire farm,” Steves said.

In 2012, Century Industries initiated the current development proposal. It has been approved by the municipality of Delta but would require an amendment of Metro Vancouver’s regional growth strategy.

It will be interesting to see how City of Vancouver councillors vote. With seven seats, they are the board’s biggest block.

Although history often repeats itself, Steves isn’t sure about the outcome this time. He said that many on the current board think, “Oh, this has been around for 30 years. Let’s let it go. ”

Comments (5) Add New Comment
Natty
Just another ugly suburban smear. Our farmland is so precious, why waste something so valuable? Bring in more potential shoppers for the hideous mega mall in Tsawassen?
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Rating: -3
LER
Farmland needs to be saved. There is no real reason to destroy farmland. Where does our food come from? right...............farms.
SAVE SOUTHLANDS
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K P
The development from Delta and further out is such an eyesore. Our best farmland in all of Canada is being swallowed up. Langley and Surrey used to be such beautiful towns. Now there is too much traffic, lots of slummy neighborhoods (which are rather new), and everytime I look, another patch of cedar forest is being torn out to build someones pressboard "palace". Just driving through the lower mainland is terribly disturbing
and disheartening. Please vote against this!
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Rating: +9
Ken j
It's very simple, This farm land should be protected at all costs. And our government needs to protect all farm land and the farmers that work the land. Our future is under attack by the self sighted and it must be stopped before it's all gone to pavement.
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Amazed and Amused
While I appreciate that densification lowers peoples taxes, provides infrastructure, etc. it is about time that the GVRD stops taking land and making houses/apartments/townhouses. If we don't have enough housing for people than maybe we should quit allowing people to move here - sort of like musical chairs - no place to live - go back where you came from . . . please keep in mind that this does not include current homeless people - that is a whole other topic of conversation.

If developers want to build these housing areas then 10% of the buildings should be kept for low income housing - at least give people a fighting chance.

We want the zoos to quit housing whales/dolphins/seals, etc. because it is wrong to keep them in captivity, away from their natural suroundings and yet we keep allowing the GVRD and each city rape and pilage the land that is our natural surroundings. If we keep allowing more and more housing then soon enough it won't really matter about the LNG pipelines because we will be killing ourselves (more than we already are) with the overburdening of our natural resources, decimation of our land and the general destruction of everything we know and love about the GVRD.

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