Silverdale All Candidates meeting Wed. Nov. 5/08: Now is your opportunity to find out where candidates stand on urban sprawl

The annual All Candidates Meeting hosted by the South West Mission Ratepayer’s Association is scheduled for this Wednesday, Nov. 5/08 at Silverdale Community center, on McLean Street across from the Silverdale Elementary School.  The format is open mike questions from the audience, first to the mayoral candidates from 6:00-7:00 pm, and then to the councillor candidates from 7:00 on.  This meeting is citizens’ opportunity to ask direct questions to the candidates who will make critical decisions about our community’s future and hold elected politicians accountable.  

No doubt many will address issues which arose in the 6 day Silverdale Public hearing including gaps in critical information, procedural blunders, and failure of the current MissionCouncil to deliver a responsible planning process. About a year ago, Mission Council succumbed to pressure from Genstar and Madison development corporations and adopted an aggressive political timeline for planning the massive 1400-unit phase one Silverdale housing development. This timeline derailed responsible, science-based, inclusive planning, and resulted in repeated official warnings from the provincial Ministry of the Environment (MoE) and federal Department of Fisheries (DFO). Most recently, both Ministries wrote letters to the District of Mission stating that the environmental impact assessments needed to ensure that the abundant and diverse wildlife and fish habitat in Silverdale are not lost were completely missing from the studies provided by Genstar’s consultants.

Rather than hold a referendum to gauge what the community wanted, or make the development an election issue, Council again succumbed to Genstar’s wishes, holding the Public Hearing on October 21/08, less than four weeks from the Municipal elections November 15.  This left precious little time for citizens to present their views on three separate bylaws and even less time for Council to consider and address issues that arose at the hearing before the election.

Fortunately, Mission residents turned out in droves, armed with questions that revealed major problems with the plan and its accompanying Phased Development Agreement (PDA).  The PDA is a 20-year, legally binding contract with the developers that guarantees their zoning for 20 years in exchange for their paying for infrastructure and some amenities.  Citizens asked how the District could adopt the agreement when, on September 29/08, both Genstar and Madison wrote letters stating that the agreement was not financially viable for them and that they wanted the financial impacts of the amenities “softened”.  The promise “Genstar will pay for everything” was clearly a commitment not held by the developers.

Legitimate concerns about the risk of groundwater contamination expressed by the current residents of Silverdale were also ignored by Council.  These residents rely on the aquifer under the site of the development for their wells, and since these residents live downhill from the development, the risk of contamination is high.  At the Public Hearing, Council admitted that they had no contingency plan to compensate people whose wells are damaged by this development, and felt no responsibility to mitigate this risk.

One speaker, a professional project manager, described the kind of risk assessment required for a development of this magnitude. In an economic climate as volatile as the current one, risk factors such as a failure to sell the homes, failure of Genstar to remain solvent for the next 20 years, and the costs to Mission taxpayers if an exit strategy is required are serious concerns. To the shock of everyone at the Hearing, Council and staff admitted to having no risk management plan. The overruns at the Leisure Centre cost Mission taxpayers millions of dollars.  The post-mortem analysis of the overruns indicated that there had been no project manager for the project and, consequently, no risk management analysis. Apparently, little has been learned from that costly mistake.

After six days of public presentations and tough questions, Council recessed the hearings until December 9/08, one week after the next Council is sworn in.  Clearly, Council underestimated the public’s interest in this proposal.  By failing to cooperate with stakeholders and address the public’s concerns, Council has exposed the inadequacies of the plan and serious risks being thrust on Mission residents. While everyone can make mistakes, Council’s inability to follow through with a responsible planning process, and gross incompetence in providing fundamental safeguards to Mission residents indicates that this staff and Council are in over their heads with planning a development project of this size.  

Come to the All Candidates Meeting and ask the questions YOU want answered!