Tsawwassen’s Southlands will likely remain agricultural land—for now

A former farm that’s been eyed for development for decades, Delta’s Southlands, will likely remain designated as agricultural land—at least for now.

According to Thomas Leathem, the Corporation of Delta’s director of community planning and development, municipal staff are not considering a land-use change for the property as part of an ongoing review of the area plan for Tsawwassen, where the Southlands is located.

“We will be suggesting that it stays the same,” Leathem told the Georgia Straight in a phone interview.

In March 2009, council struck a 12-member committee chaired by Coun. Bruce McDonald to advise it on a new plan for Tsawwassen. Leathem is one of two staff liaisons to the committee.

The Delta planning director pointed out that Metro Vancouver—which currently designates the Southlands as a green zone—is updating its regional growth strategy. A new draft under consideration classifies the Southlands as agricultural land, he added.

Last year, developer Century Industries Ltd. submitted an application to amend Delta’s official community plan and zone the 217-hectare property for various uses.

The company proposed putting up 1,900 houses on roughly one-third of the land. It also offered about 81 hectares to the Corporation of Delta for community-based agriculture, including an urban farming education centre. The remaining land would be used for public amenities like parks and trails. “The urban residential, commercial, educational and public uses in this concept would revolve around an enhanced and active agricultural area,” according to a staff report on Century’s proposal.

The continued designation of the Southlands as agricultural land doesn’t necessarily mean that development won’t take place. What the Corporation of Delta has done so far is return the application to Century while the new area plan for Tsawwassen is still being firmed up. The developer will have the opportunity to submit a new application later.

“Once the Tsawwassen area plan is in place, and once the regional plan is in place, we can be in a position to deal with the application at that point,” Leathem said.

Century must obtain Metro Vancouver’s approval to proceed with its development project.

The Southlands have been the focus of controversy for decades. Previously called the Spetifore farm, it was removed from the Agricultural Land Reserve in 1981. Tsawwassen Development Ltd. put forward a proposal in 1988 to develop the land, but this was blocked by Delta residents. The property is idle at present.

A group of residents called Southlands the Facts opposes Century’s plan. Its members have been attending meetings of the committee created by Delta council to review Tsawwassen’s area plan. The group failed to convince council to put a referendum question regarding the future of the Southlands on the ballot during an upcoming council by-election to fill the seat left vacant by the recent death of Coun. George Hawksworth.

Southlands the Facts member Dana Maslovat is concerned about the loss of farmland to development. “We are losing the ability to feed ourselves,” Maslovat told the Straight in a phone interview. “At any level, preservation of farmland to me is a huge issue for future generations.”

In February, the Tsawwassen area plan review committee released a report on the feedback it has received from the public. The document identified five possible policy directions for agriculture in the area. “Farmland outside the ALR should be used primarily for farming,” reads one option. “Alternative uses could be permitted on these lands, but only if other uses financially support improvements to farmland, provide tangible improvements and benefits to agricultural land, and are supportive of long term sustainable agriculture on these lands.”

The report also noted that some in the community want the Southlands turned into a park.

Century’s Web site for its Southlands project states that the proposed development is “based on concepts of sustainable design where integrating local food and agriculture is a central focus of community life”. It notes that the centrepiece is a market square “with walkable streets that connect agriculture with the larger community”.

According to Leathem, a Tsawwassen transportation study is also under way. The results will be incorporated in the area plan review committee’s recommendations, which the Delta planner expects council to receive by the fall.




Apr 29, 2010 at 7:03am

Don't worry boys, the fix is in. You'll all be multimillionaires before you know it. Another corrupt council in the LIbERalS pocket with mutual friends all around. What a joke. They might as well take it out of ALR now and get the shouting and screaming over with.

Debbie McBride

May 3, 2010 at 8:56am

As a long time Tsawwassen resident and an advocate of keeping the Southlands in an agricultural designation, two things have always struck me. First, the area of choice for development is usually on agricultural land that is "unfarmable". In the case of the recent Toigo golf course redevelopment, the land which was in the ALR was no good for farming anymore because there had been dumping on it, so it couldn't be farmed. In the case of the Southlands which was removed for dubious reasons in the 1980's from the ALR, the land is no good for farming because - well, no one has been farming it. So the rule out here in South Delta seems to be, dump on it or sit on it long enough and eventually you'll get an adminstration willing to let you build upon it.
Secondly, it seems the original development numbers put forth by developers in Tsawwassen are never the real ones. We always see an an increase in the number of homes for "economic" reasons after the projects have been approved. Case in point, at Delta Council's May 3 meeting, the Toigo golf course development are getting 2nd reading on a bylaw that will allow him to increase the number of homes built there, up the number of car parking spaces and allow all units to be rentals (vacation resort) instead of only a certain percentage.
Consider that this redevelopment project was approved on the basis that it would be a place for young families to OWN a home, not rent and that hardly anyone would have cars. In fact, the public was assured that hardly anyone there would drive. This happens over and over again in Delta now. It's hard not to understand why people here are so distrustful of our mayor and council and what we are being fed about the Century Industries plans for the Southlands. Patterns being what they are here means instead of 1900 homes we'll get 2500. They won't be affordable because after all living in a beach community means expensive real estate and of course it won't be too long before we find out that the cost of farming the rest of land is just too much money and they'll need to build more homes to make the farms more viable. Besides, I'm sure the developer will have some nice agricultural land in northern BC he can trade to make yet another "net gain" for agriculture as the green wash used to put development on more of the agricultural land.
Developers are becoming very adept at greenwashing their hogwash and our Delta council are very good at sitting down at the trough with them.


May 3, 2010 at 11:23am

That's interesting. There's not a single comment here from the Gateway opponents, the Livable Region Coalition, or others who often claim they are worried about the loss of farmland.

I guess the Stephen Rees and Gordon Price types are only worried about farmland lost to highways, not farmland lost to other urban uses.
Rod Smelser

Elvis Glazier

Jun 10, 2010 at 1:31pm

It is hard to give the Southlands developer any 'benefit of the doubt' with the way developers have abused the systems put in place to protect the communities.

When I see a development like this I don't 'Imagine' an urbo-agro utopian society as depicted in watercolours on the front pages of the development propoganda. Perhaps I've become jaded by seeing the end results of too many developments (including many of Century's) to fall for the pretty pictures.

This development is no different than any large residential development of the last three decades. The only difference is that instead of building it around a golf course (there's already one around the corner) they are building it around 'farmlets' that they are generously "donating" (read donating as: giving away so they neither have to maintain nor pay tax on them) to the city.

When all the dust settles (along with 20,000 dump trucks full of fill), the farm plots will be converted into parks with an occasional fruit tree, the provincial government won't come up with any funds for Kwantlen to open a satellite college, the farmers market will probably be a corner store and cafe, and the entire city of Delta will have to pay the bill to provide necessary services for the monstrous beach side suburb of a suburb. That is, until a new council comes in and is inspired to balance its budget by selling off fallow farmland (deemed unusable because the size of the plots are too small to do any serious farming on) so local developers can build more homes.

disclaimer: I oppose the Gateway project as well.


Derrick Moennick

Jul 20, 2010 at 11:24am

One of the issues with the proposed development in the Southlands is the increase in traffic around the area. As a new resident of Beach Grove I personally do not want another 2-4000 cars driving around.

Saying that - why not implement a local bike share solution, it could be for locals mainly. :)

Mark Offley - Tsawwassen home owner (14 years)

May 31, 2013 at 1:07pm

It is now May 2013 and the very common sense comments made in 2010 are EXACTLY true today, in fact it was as if the writers had a crystal ball ! Now, ANOTHER "Public Information" meeting was held on May 30th 2014 - yet another attempt to entice us with expensive pretty pictures on easels all round the room, maybe this time placed in a different order to try to confuse us, if not try to wear us down. The facts are distorted and convenient omissions abound.

Let there be no confusion ! What was truly said 4 years ago is true today about the reasons why this MUST NOT go ahead ANY FURTHER... make no mistake, we will fight this to the end including through the courts and personal investigations on those that continue to turn a blind eye to the voters that have said a resounding NO en masse for 40 years with no less a passion against it than on day 1 when this deal was first hatched - a developer able to buy agricultural land. 90 % + can't be wrong, they are just more intelligent than the other 10% !!

Food, space, quality of life, clean air, a balanced number of people able to get in and out of this peninsular in amongst the growing other plans pushed through including Tsawwassen Springs with it's tiny parking areas and accesses around $ 1 m dollar homes, TFN - truck after truck after truck of fill day and night relentlessly. My white car has silt all over it every day just driving along the route. What about our lungs ? STOP this NOW. Move on to making sure that what has been squeezed through already (waiting to see about casinos rejected from Surrey still), is managed properly and NOT to the further monetary interests of big business and side deals.