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Developing Delta: Southlands inches towards reality
The longest unrealized development proposal in Delta's history lies on the site of the former Spetifore family farm in Boundary Bay, which in two weeks time will go before council for an eighth attempt.
The family farmed crops on 217 hectares there for 40 years until the early 1970s, when George Spetifore attempted to put a 2,000-home residential subdivision with a golf course on the site.
That first attempt led to the longest public hearing in Canadian history. In 1981 it was removed from the Agricultural Land Reserve–against the advice of the commission–by Bill Bennett's Social Credit government.
When an application by the Tsawwassen Development Land Corporation (TDL) in 1989 also failed, Century Group purchased the mortgage after piling debt threatened to default the property the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce.
In two weeks the latest Southlands development proposal goes to a public hearing where the community will be asked whether it will allow 950 homes to be built on 45 hectares with a further 172 hectares designated for farmland and public space. If approved, the development would generate an estimated $2 million in annual property taxes for Delta.
This is the latest go-around by Century Group, following a previous application for 1,900 homes which stalled in early 2011 at a public hearing to get Southlands back into the Agricultural Land Reserve. The impasse led to the creation of the Mayor’s Summit, during which time Century Group decided to come back with a different application.
"The plan is different, in that it was configured more to the south and now it's more to the east in response to the soil quality," said Century Group president Sean Hodgins.
The new plan involves $12 million in drainage and soil remediation undertaken by Century Group to bring the parts of Southlands slated for agricultural development up to the Class 1 and 2 soil quality needed to make farming viable on the land.
Previous soil studies have indicated Southlands has classes 3-5 and the developer intends to build the housing component on the parts least likely for soil remediation.
Currently, Southlands has 80 hectares of farmed potatoes and feed barley being leased for a nominal amount to farmers willing to take a risk on the unpredictable soil quality.
Although the plan is different, Hodgins said much of it is based on the 2007 report from the Southlands Community Planning Team which envisioned walkable and bikeable neighbourhoods with preservation of land for greenspace and farming.
Hodgins recalls walking through that process with community stakeholders at the earliest stages.
"I kind of put the chips on the table and I said there's an agricultural component, there's a housing component, there's trails that we can do, those are some of the aspects that I think we can start with, how do you bring those together?"
With a greatly reduced number of housing units and a demonstration "cottage" open to public tours at the Tsawwassen Town Centre, Hodgins said the project in its current form has turned many people from skepticism to support.
Southlands is slated for a public hearing on Oct. 28, 29 and 30 at the South Delta Rec Centre.