The MK Delta Lands development proposal drew mixed reaction from the crowd during Tuesday night’s public hearing.
Delta city council heard from a total of 25 speakers at the North Delta Recreation Centre before pledging their unanimous support for the project.
The company’s controversial project proposes the development of industrial space on a 62-hectare (153-acre) parcel of land currently within the Agricultural Land Reserve and located near the Burns Bog conservation area.
The application also includes transferring 132.7 hectares (328 acres) of company land holdings to the Corporation of Delta to be included in the ALR.
“My commitment has always been to develop our land in a manner that best achieves overall benefits to Delta,” said MK Delta Lands Group President Joanne Barnett during a presentation to council. “For every one acre that is proposed for development, three acres are proposed for protection from future development,” said Barnett.
MK Delta will also offer up to $6 million to Delta for agricultural improvements and the promise of economic, ecologic and transportation benefits.
Delta resident Shea O’Neil took the opportunity to voice her opposition to the project, highlighting environmental concerns and the need to protect Burns Bog.
“I’m surprised that not more people oppose, just based on what I’ve heard from friends and in the community,” O’Neil told the Reporter.
Proponents for the project emphasized the economic returns for Delta and the applicant’s corporate citizenship.
“I recommend to approve this proposal. I know it’s a challenge, and I know it comes with some compromises, but I believe the science and the data that’s before us speaks into the future benefits. North Delta will benefit from business opportunities close to us and this proposal I think does set the bar for future developments – showing exactly what you have to do if you choose to develop in Delta,” said Delta Parks Commissioner Rod Binder before council.
Councillors also spoke favorably of MK Delta, emphasizing the complexity of the issue due to the number of parties involved.
“There doesn’t seem to be a perfect solution. We’ve got farming, industry, transportation, Burns Bog and the MK Delta Lands,” said Coun. Heather King at the hearing. “I think what we’ve reached here tonight is we’ve achieved a reasonable solution.”
Don DeMill, a biologist who has been working in Burns Bog since 1988 for the Corporation of Delta, voiced his concerns to council regarding the bog and came out of the hearing with mixed emotions.
“I have to be on the one hand really, really sad that a gorgeous area that I know well and all of those frogs and all of those dragonflies and all of those mice that are there will disappear,” said DeMill. “But the other side is that we could have lost all this.”
“This is a fairly small piece of land [being proposed for development], so the really good news is that we’ve saved most of it, and these guys are trying hard to do that,” added DeMill.
The discussion at the hearing was also met with anger from the Delta Farmers’ Institute. The DFI anticipated farming opportunities in the new tract of land to be included in the ALR, but were told at the hearing that the land will be conserved instead.
“They’re just misleading the public,” said Clarence DeBoer, vice-president of the DFI. “It was part of the mitigation process. There was going to be $5 million dollars and 193 acres offered to the ALR to be farmed…They have no intention of putting it into farming. Why put it through the ALR?”