Southlands development approved by Metro Vancouver despite staff objections

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Metro Vancouver voted today (May 23) to allow the development of Southlands, a patch of contentious Tsawwassen-area farmland in Delta.

Regional district spokesperson Glenn Bohn told the Straight by phone that the decision was made in a 93-31 weighted vote.

Metro staff had recommended the rejection of the plan for 217.5 hectares of the property once known as the Spetifore farm.

The developer has proposed the donation of almost 80 percent of the property to Delta for agricultural use.

In a report that was included in the board’s May 23 agenda, staff wrote that the housing development could set a precedent.

“A key concern is that approving the proposal may lead to greater development pressure on agricultural land across the region,” the report states. “The vast majority of agricultural land in the region is privately owned.”

The report notes that approval “could signal to private agricultural land owners that the strategy of dense development on one portion in exchange for public ownership of the rest is a desirable amenity”.

“In turn, this message may lead to greater speculation on agricultural land and a proliferation of these types of applications across the region,” the report notes.

Last month, Richmond councillor Harold Steves expressed reservations that his fellow directors at the Metro board may not do what their predecessors did 33 years ago.

Steves, who is vice chair of Metro’s regional planning and agriculture committee, recalled that the previous Greater Vancouver Regional District turned down a proposal to develop Southlands.

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

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