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!

Silverdale Public Hearing recessed until Dec.9/08.

After 6 days of public presentations, District of Mission Council has recessed the Public hearing for bylaws relating to the proposed 1400-unit Phase One housing development in Silverdale until Dec. 9/08, after the Municipal election Nov. 15/08.  Public interest in  the proposal was very strong, with 100s of citizens coming to the hearing and over 200 speakers signed up to present their views. Opposition to the proposal grew as major deficiencies were revealed.  Only one person supported the proposal in the last 3 days (12 hours) of the hearing.  Both the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the provincial Ministry of the Environment wrote letters to the District stating they were unable to support the proposal because it posed a serious threat to the abundant wildlife and fish habitat in the area. Letters from Genstar and Madison development corporations dated Sept. 29/08 stated that certain aspects of the current Phased Development Agreement are not economically viable for them leading citizens to question Mission council’s assurance that Genstar will pay for everything.  Citizens were very concerned by Genstar and Madison’s request that Mission Council agree to expropriate land from current residents whose properties may be needed for easements or right of ways; a request which council stated was illegal. Residents of the area were shocked to learn that not only did the council have no contingency plan in place to assist residents whose wells were contaminated by the development, but that they did not even believe that this was the responsibility of the District.  Citizens from the business community criticized the financial planning and the complete lack of risk management analysis needed to protect Mission taxpayers.  It was pointed out that no other community in BC has entered into a 20 year legally binding agreement with a developer and citizens questioned why, in the face of a world wide economic down-turn, Mission is the guinea pig.  Now that Mission council has recessed the hearings until after the election, citizens are left wondering why Council rushed into the hearings so late in their mandate in the first place.  While they were requested by the proponents to do so, clearly Council underestimated the interest citizens have in the future of their community and the concerns people have about this proposal. CAUSS would like to thank everyone who came out to present their views and send a message to council that they cannot simply ignore the obvious problems and ram through a plan of this magnitude.


Silverdale Public Hearing continues Oct. 29/08

Another day of opposition to the proposed genstar housing development occurred Oct. 28.08.  Each and every speaker was opposed to the plan and to the 20 year Phased Development Agreement.  local high school sent in a 2 page petition of students who don’t want a smog coloured future.  Pictures of Genstar’ Maple Crest development were presented which depicted silt filled streams and major erosion problems.  Once again, council stated they had no contingency plan whatsoever to address resident’s concerns of contamination of their wells.  Council candidate Kevin O’Beirne did his own research and presented a well monitoring program currently going on in Whonock that could alert residents to contamination problems and would also serve to support a class action lawsuit if necessary.  To the shock of the audience, Director of Corporate Administration, Dennis Clark stated that there appeared to be a  mistaken belief that council was responsible for well contamination.  If it is council’s plan, and they are willing to go ahead despite knowing the concerns of the public and the provincial and federal ministries of the environment, then they ARE responsible!  The meeting continues tonight, Wed. Oct. 29/08 6:30 at the Best Western.  If you haven’t had a chance to make your views known, come to the hearing.

Silverdale Public Hearing: Opposition to plan gaining momentum

Another large crowd attended today’s public hearing, and over the 4 hour session, only one presenter spoke in favour of Genstar’s plan.  High profile speakers including Adrianne Carr of the Green party, and Paul George, founder of the Western Canada Wilderness Committee,  spoke against the development and also spoke against the 20 year Phased development Agreement calling it an afront to democracy.  Speakers also critisized the buisiness case for the proposal which lacked key elements necessary to predict and manage financial impacts to Mission taxpayers.  District staff admitted that some ammenities will be financed by increases in property taxes for Silverdale residents.  The more question people ask- the more gaps are revealed in the planning of this massive proposal.  The hearing will resume Tuesday Oct. 28/08, 6:30 at the Best Western.  All concerned citizens should attend and make their views known. Everyone’s voice matters.

Council fails in attempt to exhaust speakers at Silverdale Public Hearing

Mission council changed the rules when they resumed the Public Hearing Wednesday Oct. 22, announcing that the hearing would continue all night until the speakers list was exhausted. Several speakers protested this motion, particularly those who had to work the next morning, and others who were expecting to make their presentations Thursday. After a recess at 10:40, council returned at 11:00 pm and changed the rules again to have the hearing continue until midnight. Citizens expressed numerous concerns about wildlife impacts, traffic congestion, and the inappropriateness of holding the hearings so close to the municipal election. Several people called for a district-wide referendum so that all Mission residents would have a chance to express their support or opposition to to the biggest development proposal in Mission’s history. The hearing will continue Thursday Oct. 24//08, 6:30 at the Best Western. All concerned citizens should come to the hearing to make their views known.

Silverdale Public Hearing starts Oct 21/08, 6:30 pm

District of Mission Council is holding the public hearing on bylaws relating to the proposed 1400-unit Phase One housing development in Silverdale.  This is the last chance citizens have to present their comments and concerns.

The development will have negative impacts on Silverdale’s wildlife, which includes 5 endangered species, and numerous streams, many of which are fish-bearing.  The hillside aquifer, which provides current Silverdale residents with fresh water, is at high risk of contamination by storm water runoff from roads and chemicals.  Both the federal Fisheries Ministry and the provincial Ministry of the Environment have been highly critical of the planning process and the studies conducted by the developer’s consultants.

Negative impacts to air quality will be felt throughout the Fraser Valley due to the influx of up to 30,000 cars at build-out, and loss of 100’s of acres of forest.

The public hearing will also review a 20-year, legally binding Phased Development Agreement between Mission, and the Genstar and Madison development corporations.  Mission Council has reassured over-taxed Mission residents that “Genstar will pay for everything”.  However, as recently as Sept. 29/08, Genstar and Madison have stated that certain aspects of the current Phased Development Agreement are not economically viable for them.  They have also asked Mission Council to agree to expropriate land from current residents whose properties may be needed for easements or right of ways.

We urge everyone who is concerned about this proposal to come to the Public Hearing.

Oct. 21/08, 6:30 pm

Best Western Mission City Lodge

32281 Lougheed Highway 

 Note: There will be a speaker’s list for those who want to make presentations.  

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

Public Hearing rescheduled for Oc. 21/08.

On Aug 25/08, Council finally released Genstar’s proposed 1400+ unit phase one plan and the Phased Development agreement (PDA) with Genstar.  Council also passed a resolution that the remaining 867 acres of Genstar Madison lands will be considered as the “preferred next phase” in the development of Silverdale. The PDA agreement was subsequently rescinded and an amended agreement was adopted Sept.2/08.  Such indications that this 20 year legally binding agreement is being created on the fly is worrisome to say the least.  

Council has announced that the public hearing for both the plan and the PDA will be Oct. 21/08- a mere 3 1/2 weeks before the municipal election. How can meaningful public scrutiny and debate occur when Mission Council is so determined to approve the massive first phase of the development before the municipal election Nov. 15/08, that they have reduced this critically important opportunity for public input to a meaningless box ticking exercise? 

When those with power cease to act responsibly, ordinary citizens must take responsibility for the future of our community.  To even consider holding the public hearing for the biggest development project in Mission’s history in the dying days of their mandate reveals just how little Mission Council is interested in the views of residents.  Does council intend to restrict input from citizens to accommodate this political timeline or do they merely intend to disregard what the public has to say?

AMMENDUM: The answer to our question is BOTH.

CAUSS has learned that Mission Council has just voted to restrict public presentations at the public hearing to 12 minutes/person.  Those who have more in depth comments will be asked to defer the remainder of their presentation until all others have spoken, at the end of the hearing   (late item Sept. 2/08).

CAUSS has also learned that the 20 year legally binding Phased Development Agreement has already been submitted to the Inspector of Municipalities for approval- without the benefit of any public consultation in advance of the public hearing. Even more shocking, on Oct.6/08, Genstar and Madison both submitted letters to Mission Council that the proposed PDA is NOT VIABLE for them.   If the financial comittments included in the PDA are being rejected by the developers, guess who will be paying the costs? 

Mission Council prepares to ram through approval of neighbourhood one before the municipal election Nov/08.

Mission Council has scheduled first reading of Genstar’s proposed neighbourhood one for August 11/08 and the public hearing for the plan on Oct. 21/08.  The massive subdivision on 445 acres of beautiful Silverhill proposes over 1400 houses. Genstar and Madison have already submitted a rezoning application, and Mission has been negotiating a phased development agreement with the proponents, both of which are also scheduled to go to public hearing at the same time.  A phased development agreement would effectively freeze the zoning on the plan for up to 20 years, thereby preventing future Councils from making changes to the plan or be required to compensate Genstar.  Councillor Horn stated that he is concerned that council may accept anything they are handed in order to ensure the plan is adopted before the municipal election Nov. /08.  Such recklessness and haste is indefensible and an affront to democracy.  All concerned Mission residents should attend the public hearing Oct. 21/08 and let council know, if they ram through the plan, they will not be getting re-elected.