Is it an unforgivable encroachment into environmentally-sensitive Burns Bog, or a splendid "win-win" housing and retail development for North Delta?
Opposing sides on a controversial application to develop a large parcel of land at the bottom of 72nd Avenue are ramping up the rhetoric in preparation for what will undoubtedly be an acrimonious public hearing if the project goes before Delta council sometime in the New Year.
But before it gets that far, it must pass first and second reading.
Eliza Olson, president of the Burns Bog Conservation Society, hopes it won't.
She said the fight against this particular proposal is "as challenging" as any other she's been involved in, in the 25 years since she founded the society to protect the peat bog.
"It's definitely a David and Goliath, but I just have to remember David won."
MK Delta Lands Group Inc. has wrapped up a series of open house meetings in Delta to present its vision to improve roughly 50 acres of an 89-acre parcel of forested land at the southeast corner of Highway 91 and 72nd Avenue.
The Toronto-based land developer is now putting together a rezoning application package for municipal hall to consider that features two development options.
Paul Skydt, the senior environmental planner hired by MKDLG, said "roughly 30 acres would be left untouched."
He disagrees with Olson's biblical allusion.
"I don't think it's been a David and Goliath exercise at all," he said. "It's been a community exercise."
Skydt said one option would see between 1,700 and 1,750 townhouses built at 10770 72nd Ave., along with shopping outlets and such amenities as a restaurant, bar, barbershop and the like.
"It's too early. We really don't know yet," he said. The second option would see more retail and roughly 900 to 1,000 townhouses. There would also be trails, "pocket parks," a community plaza and maybe a library.
The tallest building would be five storeys.
Not only is MKDLG prepared to put "substantial" cash into helping build a full interchange at 72nd Avenue and Highway 91, Skydt said, but it would also consider donating to Delta 193 acres that it owns on the west side of the highway, to serve as a buffer between the highway and what Skydt considers to be the real bog.
"We see this is a win-win situation." The land MKDLG is talking about building on, Skydt said, "really is not true bog at all."
Rather, he said, it's land that had already been "disturbed" by a former logging operation and a peat processing plant there.
"We're not talking about ecologically 'the bog.'"
Guy Gentner, NDP MLA for Delta North, disagrees with Skydt's assessment of the land.
"I'm sorry, that's part of Burns Bog," Gentner said. The MLA doesn't support the development proposal. "I think the company should go back to Toronto from whence it came," Gentner said.
He fears the project would exacerbate an already bad rush hour traffic plug at 72nd Avenue and Highway 91 and if it is approved, he said, commuters "should be very, very concerned."
Skydt said the project would help Delta to meet its target of accommodating 20,000 more housing units over the next 25 years, in accordance with a regional plan. The municipality, he noted has to "absorb" roughly 1,000 new residents per year.
In the meantime, Olson argues that MKDLG's application, if allowed to proceed, would pose a significant threat to the bog's water table. She said her society has collected 2,000 signatures on a petition against the proposal, and another 1,100 online.
"I know the community is not in favour," she said.
Skydt said 118 people attended MKDLG's three community workshops on the proposal and that the community has "definitely been receptive."
"It's really up to council," he said.