In May/09, CAUSS alerted Mission residents to the fact that the deadline had long passed for signing the 20-year PDA financing agreement between Genstar and District of Mission. This agreement, necessary for development of Neighbourhood one in Silverdale, requires a no-build covenant be submitted in order to ensure that conservation areas and parklands are protected. The agreement also specifies how a number of amenities, totaling millions, will be financed. This issue should be of deep concern to weary Mission taxpayers who have recently endured significant increases in property taxes and a potential gas tax increase due to rapid development of our town. In May, Dennis Clark told the Record that the District “fully expected Genstar to comply in a little while” and “if nothing progresses in about a month, the District may seek some legal advise or have discussions with Council”. Now we are 4 months past the deadline and still no PDA or word from Council. The failure of the developers to sign is not surprising since they already informed Mission that the project was not viable for them and requested the financial impacts to their company be “softened” in a letter to Mission Sept. 29/08. Mayor Atebe responded Oct.8/08 that “council will not re-open negotiations on the Phased Development Agreement at this late date” pointing out that it was Genstar’s legal counsel that wrote the agreement in the first place, and the 8 day long public hearing to review the proposal and the PDA, commenced. However, according to city planner Sharon Fletcher, Mission is currently doing exactly what they said they would not- reopening negotiations with the developers and making amendments to the PDA. Council must not put taxpayers on the hook to bail out the developers and saddle us with costly urban sprawl.
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.