Silverdale Public Hearings end Dec.10/08

The Silverdale public hearings ended at about midnight Dec.10/08 after Mayor Atebe struck several names off the speaker’s list claiming that because these individuals had not used their full 12 minutes on a previous presentation, they were not permitted to make another presentation.  He then announced that the hearing would continue until the few remaining names were exhausted.
There will be no more opportunity to submit information to council before they make their decision although strangely enough, contacting individual councillors is considered OK.
CAUSS would like to congratulate and thank all those who spoke at and attended the hearings.  This was the only opportunity the public had to express and document the public perspective, and it was clear that the issues revealed by these presentations were very serious and important.  The public has revealed serious gaps in the plan and in the PDA.  Despite extensive marketing of the development as “environmentally responsible”,  federal Fisheries and provincial Ministry of Environment scientists do not support the plan or the process.  The stream setbacks proposed for this highly sensitive ecosystem are the minimum allowed under current legislation and do little to protect the habitat needs of non-aquatic endangered species.   Council admitted the 20 year legally binding Phased Development Agreement was drafted for the benefit of Genstar and the amenities included in the agreement are of little or no benefit to the rest of Mission. 
Some speakers were clearly harassed and censored by the Mayor and Councillor Stevens, who appeared to be spending much of her time listening to tapes of past presentations, rather than the speakers in front of her, and then interrupted speakers with accusations that they were repeating themselves. Many speakers stated they felt attacked or intimidated. This sad state of affairs does not diminish in any way the importance of what was said and does not negate the need for the public interest to be protected.
It is now up to council to at least appear to deliberate, and act on the publics’ concerns.  Given Genstar’s recent position that they will not start for at least 2 years due to the economic downturn, there really is no excuse for council to ignore citizen’s concerns.  
CAUSS recommends that all Silverdale residents arrange to have their wells tested as soon as possible, and keep records of their wells’ water quality and quantity.  

Silverdale Public Hearings Resume Tuesday Dec. 9/08


The Silverdale Public hearings resume Tuesday Dec. 9, 6:30 at the Best Western.  No doubt, council is expecting a poor turnout due to the time of year and disappointing election results.  Despite the election, nothing has changed.  The plan fails to satisfy both provincial and federal ministry scientists (see dfo_oct_17_08 & moe_oct_21_08) and the financing is uncertain given Genstar’s statement that the current PDA is not viable for them (see genstar_sept29_08 ). 
The problem with this process is that the public interest has been completely left out of planning.  The Neighbourhood Planning Advisory Committee (NPAC), which should have been representing the public, included the proponents and a number of people with a vested interest in the development.  CAUSS attended a meeting where NPAC openly admitted that they did not represent the public and public comments, submitted during the various open houses, were barely considered.
Because the public have been left out, the Public Hearing has become a critical forum for expressing and documenting public concerns. So far, the hearings have revealed the negligence of Mission in not having its own project manager, not conducting any risk assessment whatsoever, not addressing resident concerns about ground water contamination,  not including seniors housing or affordable housing options, worsening the resident:employment ratio in our community (so even more people have to commute out of mission to work than before), risking our air quality, etc. etc. etc.
Genstar recently told Mission that they have no intention of starting for at least 2 years due to current market conditions (pg 12. Nov.24/08 DOM Council agenda).  Why then is there such a rush to approve this plan and lock us in for 20 years, before the public and ministry concerns are addressed?
People need to attend the Public Hearing and continue to present the public concerns as well as support citizens in making their presentations. 

Voter Turn out Disappointing

The make-up of Mission’s new council was determined by only 5553 people, or less than 25% of the eligible electorate on the municipal election Nov. 15/08.  We were pleased to see over 1100 supporters for causs members Kevin O’Beirne and Jeanette Smith, but unfortunately this was not  enough to reach the 2400+ votes needed to win.   There is a serious lapse of citizen engagement when over 75% of the electorate do not feel adequately informed to cast their ballot.  We hope that the new council acts to reach out to the community when the Silverdale Public hearings resume Dec. 9/08.

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!

CBC investigation uncovers political interference with environmental assessment process

CBC investigative reporter Kathy Tomlinson revealed shocking evidence that former Ministry of Environment Senior Scientist, Dr. Marvin Rosenau, was removed from his position after writing a critical report about Genstar’s proposed development on Silvermere Island, in Southwest Mission.  Dr. Rosenau concluded his report stating “This project constitutes one of the most environmentally damaging development projects that I have had occasion to review”.   Silvermere Island is situated in the middle of the Stave River estuary, a major wild salmon run in an area teeming with wildlife and listed species.   Despite the scathing report, Mission’s environmental manager, Mike Younie, told CAUSS that Silvermere remains an open development application.  Letters from both the Ministry of Environment and Department of Fisheries and Oceans to the District of Mission show that there are also many serious concerns with Genstar’s Silverdale megahousing development.  According to Ministry reports, concerns about the environmental base map, terms of reference for the environmental studies, and the content of the studies themselves have been disregarded by the District.   The District promised Mission residents that responsible planning would take place.  The level of political interference into the work of government scientists seriously undermines the credibility of the development planning process in Mission.  For the full story, see Genstar plan will destroy ecosystem, former government scientist warns

DFO withdraws from Silverdale planning process

The Federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) has officially withdrawn from the Silverdale planning process stating that “although DFO staff invested many hours on this process, there have been numerous occasions when our comments or suggestions were overlooked or not considered, or requests for clarification were unanswered. These comments and concerns were raised regarding the charette/design workshops, during the environmental base map review process, during development of the Environmental studies terms of reference, and when requests were made to comment on documents that were already outdated.” (DFO June 11/08). For DFO to withdraw at this stage signals a major problem with the Silverdale planning process in which Mission Council’s desperation to pass the plan before the next municipal election Nov. /08 is being given priority over cooperation with senior environmental ministries and responsible planning. Citizens who would like to read the full DFO report can find it on page 135 of District of Mission’s July 7/08 agenda.

Endangered Species found in Silverdale

Mission’s Environmental Manager announced to the Neighbourhood Plan Advisory Committee (NPAC) May 14 that four Species-at-Risk so far have been found in Neighbourhood One of the proposed Genstar development in Silverdale. These species, listed by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada, include the Oregon forest snail, Red-legged frog, Pacific sideband and Water pepper.  The Ministry of the Environment is calling the presence of over 200 endangered Oregon forest snails a “highly significant find”.  Other listed species, such as Western screech owls, have not yet been located by the developer’s consultants but have been photographed by local residents.

The survival of endangered species is dependent on protection of critical habitat such as the forests, streams, ponds, and wetlands in Silverdale. Frogs are highly vulnerable to water contamination.  This is also a major concern for current Silverdale residents, who rely on groundwater for their wells, and for Mission residents who utilize Silverdale’s freshwater springs.

Given the importance of these discoveries, CAUSS was shocked to hear members of  NPAC state that the presence of endangered species on the site will not alter their plan for Neighbourhood One because the Ministry of Environment has no legal authority to stop it.  This statement is not only incorrect, but is clearly at odds with environmental sustainability, the health of our community, and the future of endangered species in Canada.  Citizens can help save these species by telling council that the recommendations from the Ministry of Environment must be followed if this development is to proceed.

Environmental ministries caution Mission

CAUSS has learned that the provincial Ministry of the Environment (MoE) and federal department of Fisheries (DFO) have now both formally cautioned the District of Mission for the haste with which planning decisions for Silverdale are being made (see District of Mission agenda March 31/08 pg 18-19).  Design options are being presented to the public despite only 3 of 34 required studies being complete.  None of the 9 required environmental studies have been completed and the technical requirements for these environmental studies were adopted by the District “without agency input” (MoE Sept. 19/07).  DFO raised 18 separate concerns, and stated “it is unlikely DFO can enter into agreements with the District based on planning and deliverables thus far” (DFO Dec. 20/07). Most recently, MoE stated, “if the aggressive timelines and order of process continue to limit the value of [MoE] input, we will reconsider our involvement” (MoE March 4/08).

Given that ministry approvals will be required throughout the development, why would the District choose to disregard the recommendations of the ministries now, and leave itself open to expensive ad hoc planning in the future if such approvals are not forthcoming? The Cedar Valley development’s shortfall for drainage works is now well over $8.3 million, in part, because the District’s plan for a huge detention pond was rejected by DFO.

Making fundamental planning mistakes of the magnitude evident in the biggest development in Mission’s history could ultimately lead to double-digit tax increases for all Mission residents in the very near future, as well as permanent loss of the high environmental values of Silverdale.  Council’s need to finalize a plan prior to the next municipal election cannot be allowed to supercede the public’s expectation that elected officials adhere to a responsible planning process.  Concerned citizens should attend the Special Council meeting with representatives from DFO and MoE Thursday April 10, 6:30 at the municipal hall.

CAUSS member presents Backyard Birding

Bruce Klassen will be speaking about identifying and attracting local birds to your back yard April 30/08 from 7-8 pm at the Mission Library, 33247 – 2 Ave.  He will augment the talk with a superb collection of photos of owls, wood peckers, and other amazing wildlife which visited his own back yard in Silverdale.   Understanding the needs of local wildlife is the first step to ensuring appropriate protection is given to the critical habitat on which they depend.  For more information, and to register to attend, call 826-6610.