Delta North MLA Guy Gentner is vowing a battle to stop the largest private landowner at Burns Bog from redesignating a 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. 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," said the outspoken New Democrat.
MK Delta Lands Inc. recently submitted an official community plan amendment application to Delta to change a 36hecatre (89-acre) parcel from "resource study area" to "comprehensive mixed use."
The site is a rectangular piece located along the east side of Highway 91 immediately south of 72nd Avenue. It is located next to the bog's ecological conversancy area, but outside the protected zone.
The application doesn't specify what kind of uses would be built as that would be determined following consultation with the community.
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, 200 hectares (500 acres) owned by MK Delta Lands Group were not included in the purchase.
Gentner said the Burns Bog Ecosystem Review Synthesis Report, released in 2001, concluded that virtually all of Burns Bog should be preserved to ensure the viability of the ecosystem.
A Delta staff report, however, noted the study from a decade ago concluded the parcel owned by MK Delta Lands has several attributes supporting, but not required, for the viability of Burns Bog.
"I don't buy the proponent's position at all," Gentner said. "It's good, natural land and should remain protected. Unfortunately, we're not there yet. They bought it knowing there would be conservation efforts to try and retain it."
On its website, MK Delta Lands Group states its lands were deemed to be outside the scientifically designated Burns Bog area.
In a company news release, Joanne Barnett, president of MK Delta Lands Group, said, "It made sense to submit our application while North Delta's area plan process is underway. For past seven years we have studied our land from a technical perspective. We have also participated in community life to better understand how the land 'fits' into the whole of Delta and surrounding region. We are at the very beginning of the discussions, and have a long time-horizon to explore the future of these lands.
"We believe that, together with the community, we will arrive at a place where our site will contribute to the future of North Delta environmentally, socially and economically."
She stressed the balance of the company's land holdings are not part of the application.
Barnett said MK Delta is respectful that its western properties provide a buffer to the ecological conservancy area.
Saying it's an application she's been expecting for some time, Delta South MLA Vicki Huntington noted MK Delta Lands has been working hard to create a good public image in the community, including large donations and event sponsorships.
Saying the land in question is a vestige of the bog with environmental values, Huntington added, "It will be up to the people, especially the people of North Delta, to let council know what should be done with the lands."
The application was discussed at Delta council this week, where staff confirmed the land is zoned for industrial extraction and under that the company does have the right to do peat extraction.
CAO George Harvie said the current application is in a "very early stage" and MK Delta Lands has honoured its promise not to do any peat extraction.
Coun. Bruce McDonald pointed out that only zoning, not an OCP designation, can protect land. He said it's important to at least start a dialogue.
Council endorsed sending the application to public consultation, but Coun.
Sylvia Bishop opposed, say-ing, "Only by man-made design does this parcel see itself separated from the rest of Burns Bog."
The company will host its first open house on Tuesday, April 17 from 5 to 8 p.m. at Sunshine Hills Elementary, 11585 Bond Blvd., North Delta.
Burns Bog Conservation Society president Eliza Olson said she's currently reviewing the OCP application.