The first open house regarding an 89-acre parcel of land next to Burns Bog was held Tuesday night at Sunshine Hills Elementary - and the mood was tense.
MK Delta Lands Inc. recently submitted an official community plan amendment application to Delta to change the land to "comprehensive mixed use," from its current "resource study area."
The site is a rectangular piece located along the east side of Highway 91 just south of 72nd Avenue. It is located next to the Burn's Bog Ecological Reserve, but is outside the protected zone.
Eliza Olson, president of the Burns Bog Conservation Society, said many people were not happy at the open house.
"I don't know if they were opposed, but they were unhappy. At least the people I talked to anyways,' she said Wednesday.
Olson said residents' concerns included loss of habitat, loss of a noise buffer and increased traffic.
She said the Burns Bog Conservation Society isn't taking a position on the project just yet, but instead the organization will be pulling information together for the public, to allow locals to make their own decisions.
The society's website says, "Every time you nibble at the edge, it affects the water mound and the bogs survival."
Before a media tour of the property on April 13, Erica Tucker of North Delta's Sunshine Hills neighbourhood showed up to voice her opposition to any redevelopment.
"I think it would be a horrible shame to see it go," Tucker said.
"People have to be aware of what this could mean."
Tucker said she did her best to make sure local residents came to the open house, contacting more than 100 people.
She said other than simple beautification projects like planting trees or building public restrooms, she opposes any possible redevelopment.
"I'm afraid it could snowball into something we can't stop," Tucker said.
'BIG BATTLE AHEAD'
Earlier this month, Delta North MLA Guy Gentner vowed a battle to stop the landowners from redesignating the parcel of land.
"It is marsh, it is bog. With the disturbance to wildlife and change to the hydrology to the water, there's huge implications," said Gentner. "Frankly, I'd be very surprised if people up here supported anything over there and I think they'll have a big battle ahead of them."
Joanne Barnett, president of MK Delta Lands Group, was hoping for open minds in advance of Tuesday's open house.
She could not be reached by press time for comment on how the open house went.
Going into the first open house, Barnett was under no illusion that opposition to the project is widespread at this point.
"People go on the attack because there's a fear of the unknown," said Barnett, who led a group of media through the property in an attempt to clarify the company's intentions on April 13.
"Their instinct is to defend their home and they have a legitimate concern. That's why we want as much public input as possible. But we want to get out the facts. People think this is part of Burns Bog. It's not bog land. It sits beside the old peat industrial land and a lot of it is strewn with industrial debris."
The company's application doesn't specify what kind of uses it is considering, and Barnett insists no plan will go forward without consultation with the community.
"Our challenge is to explore what the community as a whole would like to see," Barnett said. "Whether it's a mix of commercial and residential lands, that hasn't been decided."
BENEFITS TO DELTA
In 2004, four levels of government - federal, provincial, regional and municipal - purchased about 2,000 hectares (5,000 acres) of the bog for $73 million.
Five times the size of Stanley Park, it was designated as the Burns Bog Ecological Reserve, a protected area. However, 500 acres owned by MK Delta Lands Group were not included in the purchase.
Barnett says the community of North Delta faces challenges like affordable housing and growing transportation issues that will need to be addressed. She said the redevelopment of the area can benefit the community as a whole.
"MK Delta can be a catalyst in advancing North Delta," she said.
"There's no other parcel of land that offers these type of opportunities. But as a developer there has to be a mix of uses. It can't go just one way."
At a recent Delta council meeting, staff confirmed the land is zoned for industrial extraction and under that the company does have the right to do peat extraction.
Council endorsed sending the application to public consultation, but Coun. Sylvia Bishop opposed, saying, "Only by manmade design does this parcel see itself separated from the rest of Burns Bog."