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.

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.  

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?