CAUSS alerts all BC residents to Phased Development Agreements

Citizens Against Urban Sprawl Society is issuing an alert to all BC residents concerned with responsible development planning and protection of the environment.  The province has introduced legislation which allows developers and municipalities to enter into 20 year legally binding Phased Development Agreements (PDAs).  If approved by the Inspector of Municipalities, 20 year PDAs guarantee zoning for developers regardless of what up to 6 future elected municipal councils deem to be in their community’s best interest.  The flawed PDA process overrides the will of the electorate and undermines the ability of democratically elected councils to respond to community needs.  The Mission test case proves that despite their long-term environmental, social and economic impacts, the approval of these PDAs is merely a rubber stamp process with no real accountability.  The Inspector recently approved a PDA between Mission and 2 major development corporations despite serious objections from both provincial and federal environment ministries whose concerns were not even mentioned in his approval (see ministry concerns dfo_oct_17_08, moe_oct_21_08).  The Inspector refused to accept public submissions prior to making his decision and refused to accept a legal opinion funded by West Coast Environmental Law. This legal opinion states the Mission PDA violates the Local Government Act and calls into question the business case for the massive development project (see jb-to-inspector).   It is no coincidence that Mission’s Director of Corporate Administration has since confirmed that the developers have already failed to meet their first important obligation under the PDA- to apply to register a no-build covenant on the property within 15 days of adoption of the agreement. This covenant was a critical component of the PDA designed to protect the public interest by ensuring compliance with density objectives and provision of conservation areas and parks.   Given his responsibility within government, it was shocking to read the Inspector state the approval “is not to be construed as representing provincial approval for the substance of the bylaw and its legality” (see inspector-approval).  Unless a more rigorous and transparent approval process is developed, PDAs could be passed all over the province leaving a long-term legacy of environmentally destructive and financially high-risk projects. To date, Kevin Krueger, Minister of Community Development, and local MLA Randy Hawes have not responded to CAUSS’s concerns with the PDA approval process. Mission residents will be paying close attention to this issue over the next few weeks. Concerned BC residents should email their local MLA, Minister Krueger, Premier Campbell, the BC Ombudsman and BC Auditor General to demand environmental ministry concerns and legal and technical issues be resolved before the province commits to any extended PDA timelines.

Inspector’s rubber stamp ignores the facts

The Inspector of Municipalities issued its approval of the 20 year Phased Development Agreement (PDA) between Mission and two development corporations despite glaring problems with the agreement including its legality (inspector-approval).  It is extremely disturbing that the Inspector, responsible for ensuring local governments comply with the Municipal Act, appears to be abdicating his responsibility and putting Mission on the hook for the legality of the PDA.  The Inspector’s approval was listed on Mission Council’s March 2 agenda but surprisingly, this item was not discussed by Council despite the implications the development has for the social, economic and environmental future of our community.  In front of a handful of citizens, Council adopted all three Silverdale Bylaws at the end of the meeting with no discussion. 

CAUSS reviewed the Inspector’s approval and submitted the following letter to the Minister of Community Development March 2/09.

Kevin Krueger 

Minister of Community Development                       

PO Box 9056 STN


Victoria BC

V8W 9E5


Dear Minister Krueger,

I am writing this letter to express our concern with the approval of the proposed 20-year phased development agreement (PDA) for the development of the South West Mission Urban Reserve by Dale Wall, Inspector of Municipalities, Feb 12. 2009.

The development associated with this PDA will have long-standing and irreversible impacts to the local community and area wildlife.  A high degree of cooperation is therefore required with the environmental ministries to ensure that species at risk and fish habitat is protected. We are very concerned that this approval will seriously undermine the position of the provincial Ministry of the Environment and federal Fisheries, both of whom have expressed concerns with the project and have asked for numerous revisions prior to adoption of the bylaws (see dfo.oct17/08 & moe.oct21/08).  Surprisingly, no reference to the ministries was made in the approval letter.  Ministry sign off must take place prior to zoning approval.

We are also very distressed that no mention of concerns raised by the public in the 8-day long public hearing was stated in the approval. There is no evidence in this approval if either the Inspector or the District of Mission considered the concerns of citizens.  Did the Inspector even receive a staff report associated with the public hearing? 

Original criteria to evaluate the PDA presented by the Inspector included the degree of community support for the proposal and review of the public hearing.  However we see no response or acknowledgement in this approval letter of the legitimate community concerns, the environmental concerns, or the overwhelming opposition to the proposal.

In addition to these significant omissions, the approval contained a number of inaccurate statements.

Mr. Wall’s letter states his approval of the PDA was in part based on ensuring adequate public consultation was undertaken and that the development is consistent with the long-term planning done by the municipality.

Public consultation for the PDA involved a single public information meeting which was poorly advertised and therefore poorly attended.  There were no opportunities for public input into the PDA prior to the final public hearing. The Neighbourhood Planning Advisory Committee (NPAC), a committee of citizens appointed by the District of Mission to contribute to the planning of the proposal, never reviewed the PDA.

Mr. Wall stated he reviewed the effort made by the District of Mission (District) to undertake its own legal review and risk assessment so that the District Council was able to make an informed decision. However Mission staff revealed at the public hearing that no risk assessment document, or file exists, and no formal risk assessment had been done.  Therefore is Mr. Wall’s conclusion that no risk assessment for a project of this magnitude is acceptable?

Mr. Wall stated his approval ensured the characteristics of the development warranted the need for a 20-year agreement and that the agreement, including the sequencing of amenities, is based on a reasonable business case.

However, the business case is severely flawed.  Not only have the owners stated that the current PDA is not viable for them (see genstar.sept29/08), but both senior environmental ministries have stated they cannot support the current plan and DFO specifically stated “finalizing the current plan could result in future requests for unacceptable impacts to fish habitat that may not be Authorized by this Department, necessitating future changes to the Plan and/or additional financial and temporal obligations for the District or applicants” (DFO Oct. 17/08).

In summary, the approval for the 20-year time frame for the PDA to be entered into between the District of Mission and Genstar Titleco Limited Corporation and Madison Development Corporation is based on incomplete information and on statements that are not supported by the facts.

The Inspector has been informed by CAUSS legal counsel and is aware that there are also concerns with the legality of this PDA. This opinion was submitted directly to the Inspector, who then indicated that no direct submissions from the public would be accepted. The opinion was nonetheless submitted during the hearing but it is not clear that the points raised were included in the record reviewed by the Inspector for this approval.  The approval letter ends with the caveat that “This approval is with respect to the time frame of the agreement only and is not to be construed as representing provincial approval for the substance of the bylaw and its legality. The District, as the local government, is locally responsible and accountable for entering into this agreement”. We do not understand this statement in conjunction with the responsibilities of the Inspector in this approval process.

In conclusion, we are very disturbed by the apparent lack of provincial accountability for this approval given the significant social, environmental and economic impacts of the proposal. The approval fails to safeguard the public interest and has disregarded not only issues presented by concerned citizens but also has disregarded the serious concerns of the Ministry of Environment and Department of Fisheries.  The public interest warrants a higher level of analysis and transparency than is the case in this process. We expected the approval to be more than a press release from the Inspector. 

The PDA should not have been approved prior to environmental ministry sign off.  We ask that you please review this situation and take immediate corrective action.


 Tracy Lyster, Chair, CAUSS

Cc:     Mayor and Council of Mission, Randy Hawes MLA, Michael Sather MLA, Shane Simpson MLA, Charlie Wyse MLA

CAUSS is currently reviewing all options available to ensure accountability and responsible planning for this environmentally sensitive area at the municipal, provincial and federal level. We will post the Minister’s reply when it is received.