A petition which sparked debate and confusion within a North Delta neighbourhood fell flat last week, losing steam shortly before council could weigh in on the issue.
The document aimed to preserve Sunshine Village’s character and green spaces against the spread of so called “mega-homes” in the area through the use of neighbourhood rezoning.
However, confusion about the impact the new zoning would have on existing homes and property values led to many people withdrawing their support, ultimately dropping the petition below the 75 per cent threshold necessary for it to be considered by council.
At last week’s council meeting, Mayor Lois Jackson and other councillors acknowledged the confusion surrounding the petition’s intentions and origins, emphasizing that it was not put forward by the Corporation of Delta.
Jackson went on to say that even though the petition had failed, she remained in support of community action, saying that if “a neighbourhood the size of two or three hundred people want their neighbourhood to grow into the future in a particular fashion, I don’t know why government should tell them why they can’t have it.”
In response to the confusion, Coun. Bruce McDonald requested city staff investigate previous instances of neighbourhood rezoning – of which Delta has six – to determine if residents in these areas are still satisfied with the restrictions and measure what, if any, effect they have had on property values.
Trevor Smith, the principal mover behind the Save Sunshine Village petition, said he felt “thrown under the bus” by council choosing not to hear his group out, despite acknowledging less than 75 per cent of the neighbourhood’s residents still supported it.
A principal criticism of the proposed zoning specifications was that they would affect existing properties as well, meaning many homeowners wouldn’t be able to rebuild the home they currently have if it were destroyed. Opponents of the rezoning alleged that only 12 out of the 211 houses in the neighbourhood would conform to the new standard.
Marcy Sangret, deputy director of community planning for the Corporation of Delta, said she couldn’t accurately confirm whether properties would meet the criteria in the neighbourhood zoning petition as a site survey of each property would first be needed.
“As Delta does not have survey information for each property, we cannot say how many properties would or would not meet the zoning criteria proposed by the petition,” she said in an email to the Reporter.
Smith alleged that the proposal for updated zoning would only have affected new homes, a point contradicted by Sangret in an interview Tuesday.
Sangret said that while existing homes would not have been forced to be altered to fit the proposed specifications, they would have been affected should there be any modifications to their structure.
Despite falling short this time, Smith said he and his group would seek additional avenues to protect their neighbourhood.
“We’re not going to go away,” he said.
Firth Bateman, a Sunshine Village resident who opposed the rezoning, said that while nobody in the neighbourhood wants these mega-homes, the zoning proposal was poorly crafted, citing unclear wording and alleging it would depress property values.
“One of the problems was they didn’t define what a mega-home was. They didn’t want mega homes but nobody said what a mega-home was, so that was one of the problems we had with the petition right away,” Bateman said.
An upside to the fracas, according to Bateman, is that it forced the community to engage on issues affecting it, something he said doesn’t happen often enough.
“People don’t get involved. They see a development sign go up, or they get a notice of a public meeting or a public hearing, but they don’t go. They don’t speak [up] and you have to. That’s one good thing that may have come out of this.”