Opinion

UNCOMMON SENSE:Terminal 2 should be Delta’s last port expansion

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Urban planning has always been a delicate balance of the needs of commerce, industry, and housing.

Restricting growth in any one sector is bound to harm the economy in a way that makes itself apparent through the demands of the free market. Delta is a good example of this tenuous balancing act.

A lack of housing starts in South Delta over the past several decades has meant a typical single-family home in East Ladner is worth $759,000 in 2014.

A lack of commercial retail space in South Delta has led to an unprecedented agreement between the Treaty First Nation and Ivanhoe Cambridge with Property Development Group to create the largest mall development in B.C.

A lack of industrial land near Deltaport has put incredible pressure on farmland locked up in the Agricultural Land Reserve to develop more space for warehousing and distribution.

The free market abhors a vacuum as much as nature. Wherever demand outstrips supply you can be sure somebody will be calling for more.

The Roberts Bank superport is a perfect example. Originally opened as a coal port in 1970 on a 20-hectare peninsula of reclaimed land, it has since quadrupled in size and added a container terminal in 1997.

Deltaport already doubled its capacity to 1.8 million 20-foot equivalent container units (TEUs) in 2009, spending $400-million on a third berth under the argument it would serve the growing need for capacity as Canada’s trade with Asia under the Harper Government pulled the economy through the recession.

However, less than two years after that expansion the newly-formed Port Metro Vancouver, created under a mandate of international trade and shipping, began formulating the argument for another expansion.

Doubling what currently exists–which is essentially quadrupling in size what existed here only a decade ago–the Port proposes to increase container capacity to 2.4 million TEUs.

Anticipating that growth, the province expedited approval of first the South Fraser Perimeter Road to serve the superport, followed by an announcement to replace the George Massey Tunnel with a bridge.

Although the argument that Deltaport requires expansion is based on a sensible evaluation of trade growth bottlenecked by inadequate port capacity, one is left with a genuine sense of foreboding about what all this means for Delta’s agricultural community.

If Terminal 2 is approved–as the local and national economy surely requires–then who’s to say it won’t soon need another expansion? And as pressure builds to increase capacity again, it will increase pressure everywhere else: more housing, more commerce, more industry.

That leaves Delta’s farming families in an awkward position, especially since it’s in the way of all that growth.

If the residents of this community want to preserve some vestige of what makes Delta unique to the Lower Mainland, then Terminal 2 needs to be the last time we hear of port expansion.

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