Delta Council is expected to vote Friday on a divisive proposal that would turn a chunk of fallow farmland into a development comprising homes, parks and farming operations.
For Sean Hodgins, whose company is backing the Southlands project, the vote could be a turning point in a process that began more than 20 years ago when Century Group took over the mortgage on the 217-hectare site after a previous development proposal failed to win council approval.
"I am not on pins and needles, but I am hopeful that [council] will move it along," Mr. Hodgins said on Thursday.
Delta held five days of hearings on the project last week before closing public sessions. The deadline for written submissions on the project was noon on Thursday.
The Southlands proposal would develop about 20 per cent of the site – in the southeast corner of Tsawwassen, B.C. – with a mixed-use development comprising 950 homes. The balance of the land would be transferred to the municipality of Delta to create the Southlands Community Farm District.
About 70 per cent of the transferred land would be used for agriculture, with the rest set aside for natural habitat and amenities such as a farmers' market.
Supporters of the proposal say it would provide needed housing while preserving most of the site for parks and farming, saying the site has lain mostly fallow for years.
The land in question used to be part of the Agricultural Land Reserve, but was removed in 1981. The property is zoned as agricultural and would have to be rezoned for the Southlands proposal to go ahead.
At the hearings, residents asked about potential costs to taxpayers and whether the low-lying land could be successfully farmed.
In written answers provided at the hearing, Delta staff said the proposal would include provisions to upgrade soil and make it more suitable for agriculture, and that the municipality would retain control over farming operations.
"If the application is approved, Delta would be the land owner and would control the types of farming that could take place," the staff response said. "For further certainty, it is proposed that a covenant be registered on the land stating that the land would be actively used for soil-based agriculture."
Some residents have raised concerns that agricultural use would result in greenhouses popping up in the area instead of soil-based farming.
Opponents have also raised concerns about loss of wildlife habitat, the impact on migratory bird routes, as well as traffic concerns resulting from the thousands of loads of fill that will have to trucked to the site.
If Delta Council approves the project, it would still require approval from Metro Vancouver.
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