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Developing Delta: MK Delta Lands pitches new plan for North Delta
The lonely stretch of Highway 91 at the corner of 72nd Avenue in North Delta may soon become a bustling community if MK Delta Lands’ ambitious development proposal comes to fruition.
The plan calls for 1,100 residential units in the form of 650 four-storey apartments and 450 three-storey townhouses, as well as 12,000 sq. metres of commercial space. The neighbourhood plan calls for a walkable town centre, with community space and parks making up close to half of the 36-hectare site.
The proposal will also see $12 million in Highway 91 upgrades, benefiting the hundreds of thousands of commuters who use the route every day.
In addition to the roughly 18 hectares of The proposal includes handing over another 78 hectares of bog land to the west of Highway 99 to be absorbed into the contiguous Burns Bog Conservation Area, bringing the grand total of protected lands to more than 2,200 hectares.
The original development proposal called for 40,000 square metres (431,000 square feet) of commercial space, including an outlet mall. However, that component was scrapped when MK Delta Lands’ plan was brought back before Delta Council in September, with just 12,000 square metres (130,000 square feet) of commercial space included in the current proposal.
"We heard concerns from the community that the proposed retail development was too large," said Joanne Barnett, president of MK Delta Lands Group. “If the old proposal was a Guinness stout, this new proposal is Coors Light.”
Barnett said the removal of the outlet mall allowed them to avoid invasive pilings that would have penetrated the peat layer below the soil. This also significantly reduces the expected traffic flow, which was also a concern of residents.
“There was interest [in the outler mall], it had support, but it wasn’t the right fit,” she says. “You can’t sell something to people who don’t want to buy it.”
Some environmental groups, such as the Burns Bog Conservation Society, argue that the land is part of the mineral-rich transition zone of the bog, and should not be disturbed.
However, Barnet says MK Delta Lands has done their due diligence to protect the hydrology of the ecologically sensitive Burns Bog next door. One of the defining characteristics of the unique raised bog is its highly acidic water table. Large inputs of storm water could upset this delicate balance.
It’s a valid concern, says Barnett, that’s why MK Delta Lands has hired on many of the hydrologists who prepared the Corporation of Delta’s scientific review of the bog to create the storm water management plan for the development.
Barnett says the storm water retention ponds and ecoswales included in the proposal will ensure there are no negative repercussions for the bog.
“We have the best understanding of the bog hydrology, and we’re confident in our management plan,” she says. "The proposed development will be a leading example of sustainable technology in North Delta.”
The development proposal also includes handing over another 78 hectares of bog land to the west of Highway 99 to be absorbed into the contiguous Burns Bog Conservation Area, bringing the grand total of protected lands to more than 2,200 hectares.
The 2,250-hectare bog property was originally bought from the provincial government in 1978 by a group of investors led by the McLaughlin family, who also purchased Grouse Mountain at the time.
The MK Group held a minority stake in the deal, and in 2004, became the principal and controlling investor. It was then, after decades of controversy about the future of the bog, that the MK Group sold off more than 2,000 hectares of its land for a price tag of $73 million to various levels of government so that it could be used to create the Burns Bog Conservancy Area.
Not long after the initial deal was struck, the Corporation of Delta expressed concerns about the lack of connecting greenspace on what is now the Delta-South Surrey Greenway. So the MK Group agreed to reopen the deal and sell off additional lands, leaving itself close to 115 hectares of land along Highway 91 with which to develop.
The previous development application passed first and second reading before going to Metro Vancouver's board on July 26 to determine whether a regional government public hearing should precede the municipal one.
Municipally, the land is currently zoned I3 Extraction Industrial, and has historically been used for peat extraction operations. But because the application sought to amend the Official Community Plan to allow a mixed-use community, amendments to the Metro Vancouver Regioinal Growth Strategy are required in order to change the land use designation from its current Conservation and Recreation to General Urban.
The land would also be included within the Urban Containment Boundary, which it currently is not. Metro's current designation is reserved for lands intended to "protect significant ecological assets."
Revised bylaws will now come back for first and second reading, and a public hearing set for early 2014.
“Hopefully the response will be a lot more positive this time around,” says Barnett. “It’s important to me to leave the community a better place then when I found it.”
MK Delta Lands will have an information centre open to the public, located at 120th Street and 64th Avenue. It will remain open until Feb. 28, 2014.