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MASSIVE DEVELOPMENT FOOTPRINT AT WREN CEEK MISSION THREATENS ENDANGERED WILDLIFE SPECIES

April 6, 2012 11:14 am

A proposal to build a 33 acre commercial-residential development in Mission from Wren Street west to the Silvercreek wetlands will destroy sensitive ravine and creek ecosystems and endangered species habitat.

Residents of the area are also very worried that removal of the trees and changing the hydrology of the steep hillside could threaten the slope stability of their properties.

The proposed development will be directly adjacent to the Silvercreek Wetlands, deemed as the most environmentally sensitive area in all of Mission. “Silvercreek is one of only 12 designated “Sensitive Streams” in BC.  All 5 species of wild salmon use the wetland as well as an estimated 100-200 waterfowl every day” (Ducks Unlimited/05).

Wildlife surveys report the development site is supportive of several federally listed Species at Risk (SARA) and 10 provincially blue and red-listed species.

Oregon forest snail (SARA listed endangered, red listed),

 

Red-legged frog (SARA listed special concern, blue listed),

 

Green heron (blue listed),

 

Western screech owl (SARA listed special concern, blue listed),

 

Pacific sideband (blue listed),

 

Pacific water shrew (SARA listed endangered, red listed),

 

Northern water-meal (red listed),

 

Dun skipper (SARA listed threatened, blue listed),

 

Snowshoe hare (red listed)

 

Trowbridge’s shrew (blue listed) (photo not available).

The developer proposes to compensate for the loss of fish habitat by enhancing the nearby Sun Valley Trout Park. Fisheries and Oceans Canada has issued a conditional acceptance of the project from a fisheries point of view. Environment Canada however, recommended that Endangered Oregon forest snail habitat be protected through avoidance (i.e., no disturbance) (Wren Creek Screening CEAA Report Feb. 14 2012 ).

CAUSS opposes this development on the grounds that it will result in the permanent loss of endangered species habitat in Mission when less destructive alternatives could meet the District’s employment and economic/taxation needs. We support the design of a higher density development on a smaller 10-acre footprint.

Mission council will decide the fate of this sensitive ecosystem following a Public Hearing April 16/12.   

Concerned citizens can write Mission Mayor and Council and tell them whether you support the Wren creek proposal in its current form or a scaled down version which respects Endangered Species habitat.


CAUSS member Mike Gildersleeve runs for Mayor of Mission. CAUSS member Kevin O’Beirne runs for council.

November 2, 2011 9:58 am

Mike Gildersleeve has declared his intention to run for Mayor of Mission. He is the clear mayoral choice for citizens concerned about the environment, social justice, and who support the creation of a local economy. Mike is community minded and has a track record of being community involved. He is the Chair of the Board for the Wilderness Committee, is a strong advocate for protection of our Agricultural Land Reserve, has been very active in the Green Party both federally and provincially, and is a current member of CAUSS. Mike has written about the Agricultural Land Reserve and his concerns about the proposed Stave Lake Private Public Partnership in the Footprint Press. Mike recently collaborated with citizens to draft a Code of Ethics designed to increase government accountability and encourage public participation.

To see Mike’s platform, visit MikeGildersleeve.

Download Mike Gildersleeve for Mayor here.

Kevin O’Beirne is running for Mission council.  Kevin has lived in Mission all his life and has dedicated his time to benefit our community. Kevin has been a volunteer for Mission Fire and Rescue for the past 20 years, and is also on the executive of the Southwest Mission Ratepayers.

For more information, or to contact Kevin:

Visit his Facebook page Kevin O’Beirne

or call 604-820-1339.

 

Members of CAUSS and local citizens create Municipal Code of Ethics

July 10, 2011 9:10 am

Empowering local citizens: Restoring democracy by making Mission’s municipal government accountable and ethical.

The citizens of Mission recognize that the chief function of local government, at all times, is to serve the best interests of the people of Mission.  Decisions must not undermine Mission’s long-term fiscal, social and environmental sustainability. For this reason, citizens have created this code of conduct outlining our expectations of elected officials. We believe that adherence to this code of conduct will result not only in more ethical and fair decisions, but also more responsible and beneficial decisions for the community.  Enhanced citizen participation can be used as a benchmark to evaluate the effectiveness of more transparent, inclusive and fair governance.  We welcome public feedback.  Please send us your comments and suggestions about this document.

 

Code of Ethics and Standards of Conduct:

By Tracy Lyster

With input and assistance from MyMission members Mike Gildersleeve, Hilde Tonkens, Mike Diener, Phyllis Young, Kevin Francis, Don Mair, Sieglinde Stieda, Jeanette Smith, Nikki Watkinson, Anne Arsenault, Matt Johnson, Othmar Kagi

 

FAIRNESS

Ensure decisions and community goals are based on complete and accurate information. Ensure technical information, including environmental studies, is completed at arms length from proponents Bearing in mind unique individual circumstances, treat like cases alike and uphold and implement municipal policies adopted by elected officials.  Decisions should as much as possible reflect longer-term community goals instead of short-term gains for individuals.

Resist any encroachment on council responsibilities, believing the member should be free to carry out official policies without interference, and handle each problem without discrimination on the basis of principle and justice.

Treat all citizens regardless of background, ethnicity, sex, age, orientation and belief as equal under the law, the UN charter and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (http://dsp-psd.pwgsc.gc.ca/Collection/CH37-4-3-2002E.pdf).

 

INCLUSIVENESS:

Ensure public is informed about municipal issues and there is opportunity for meaningful public input into these issues. Keep the community informed on municipal affairs, encourage communication between the citizens and all municipal officers; emphasize friendly and courteous service to the public and seek to improve the quality and image of public service. Information should be readily and easily available to the citizen. New means of communication other than the traditional forms (papers, websites) should be explored to ensure every citizen could access information. Do not assume that everyone has access to a computer.

Hold regular Town Hall meetings in various neighborhoods in order for council to hear the concerns of the neighborhood and to provide opportunity for public participation and debate and dialogue on important issues- in particular land use decisions and budget planning.

Public question period should not be reduced due to council verbosity. Allow citizens to fairly represent themselves and adequately have time to state their case and ask questions for council during meetings. Allow specific agenda related questions after each item before council votes and close the meeting no later than 9:00 pm to allow sufficient time for general questions.

Provide written answers to citizens’ questions either in the minutes of the meeting or as a separate agenda item for the next council meeting.

No late items unless there is an emergency.

Ensure all socioeconomic, ethnic, and community groups are represented on major policy projects such as the OCP, neighborhood planning.

Ensure the process and guidelines are clearly set out as to how meetings will be run in accordance with procedural fairness.  Ensure citizens are respected and avoid harassment of speakers or other conduct that undermines public participation.  Provide public education about municipal affairs and any major up and coming issues ensuring that there is ample and at least reasonable notice for any special meetings held by Council.

Do not hold important public meetings during times when people usually not expected to be available e.g. during the summer or holiday season. If this still needs to happen, then provide time and opportunity for people to send in a letter with comments.

Ensure all relevant information on any issue is available on Mission website, at Mission’s city hall and at the library.

 

ENCOURAGE PUBLIC PARTICIPATION

Provide hard copies of agenda on request to individuals or to groups.

Fee barriers to Freedom Of Information (FOI) requests should be eliminated

Ensure there are clear and specific limits to in-camera meetings.

All members of a council have the duty to seek a determination on the appropriateness of a proposed in-camera session from the BC FOI and Privacy Commissioner’s Office if they feel the meeting should not be held in-camera.

 

FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY

We believe the district of Mission should be spending within its means.  This means that we need to avoid borrowing and saddling citizens with debt.  There needs to be prioritization of spending for projects needed for the health and long term sustainability of the community before other major projects are considered.

Institute a District wide audit to reveal any irregularities in operational expenses.  Increases in operational expenses should be tied to population growth.

Ensure a cost benefit analysis is completed for every project/proposal at arms length from proponents. Ensure there is a project manager who conducts a risk assessment for every major project.

Respect Mission taxpayers.  Raises for staff and councilors should be tied to municipal spending.  No raises for the mayor and council if property taxes rise.  Make raises contingent on staying within the budget.  Recognize it is unethical and illegal to institute policies and bylaws which provide a benefit to a business at the expense of Mission taxpayers.

 

CONFLICT OF INTEREST

Currently there are no conflict of interest provisions covering municipal politicians in the province despite the fact that many have called for such ethical oversight.

We believe the District of Mission needs to have clear conflict of interest guidelines enshrined in policy.

Councilors and city staff should seek no favour and believe that personal enrichment or profit secured by confidential information or by misuse of public time is dishonest. In general, a conflict of interest exists for mayor, councilors or staff who use their position at the city hall to benefit themselves, their friends or their family.

Conflict of interest exists where a public official has a private or personal interest sufficient to influence the objective exercise of his or her official duties.   The conflict may be:

  • Real conflict of interest:  The mayor, councilors and staff should not accept gifts, favours or money from suppliers, employment by another organization, ownership of a significant part of another organization or business, for passing along confidential or privileged information or for voting in favour of a specific decision.
  • Perceived conflict of interest: The Mayor, councilors and city staff should avoid situations which could be seen as a conflict of interest, despite good intentions on the part of the councilor or city staff member.
  • Potential conflict of interest: The mayor, councilors and city staff are expected to perform their duties conscientiously and in a manner which will not put their personal interest in conflict with the best interests of the people of Mission.

Each elected official should be required to fully disclosure all circumstances that could be construed as a conflict of interest and get recommendations for any actions needed to eliminate a conflict of interest.

 

TRANSPARENCY OF DECISIONS

It is council’s responsibility to ensure they are fully informed about any decision before they vote.

Every municipal decision-making process must be open and there has to be fair and ample opportunity for the public to comment or ask questions. Ensure minutes from the work of all municipal committees are available to the public.

Develop a useful form of public accountability explanation called an Equity Statement (Esq.). The statement sets out, for proponents of an intention that would affect the public in important ways:

1. Who would gain what benefits from what is proposed, and why they should, in both the short and long term.

2. Who would bear what costs and risks, and why they should, in both the short and longer term.

3. And assuming the proposal was to go ahead, who would be required to meet what standard of performance.

All contracts must be vetted in an open public process with at least 2 applicants before the contract is awarded.

In addition, transparency of decisions will be enhanced by broadcasting of municipal council meetings on cable TV and creating Hansard (verbatim) minutes of public meetings.

This code of ethics shall be reviewed annually.

 

 

Privatization of Mission Water Rejected by Citizens

April 7, 2011 10:15 am

Mission council’s attempt to privatize operation of a new water supply at Stave Lake to facilitate future growth was defeated Monday April 4/11 after CAUSS and other concerned citizens barraged council with numerous concerns and questions.  Speaker after speaker addressed council to oppose the proposal, which would have given an unknown corporation control of the operations for 25 years or even longer.  Mike Gildersleeves pointed out that the costs of water to residents would be tied to the cost of hydro, as BC hydro owns the water rights for the Stave.  This, at a time when hydro rates are skyrocketing means higher water costs for residents.  It was revealed at the meeting that council was preparing to move forward with the proposal even though the business case, outlining the risks and costs to Mission, had not yet been completed for this $300 million dollar project!  Members of CUPE pointed out that private operations of the plant would cost more than $1,000,000 more per/year than public operations.  Others pointed out that an environmental assessment had not been completed on the project despite the importance of the Stave River to wild salmon.

Mission staff admitted that our town does not have the money to pay our share of the project, and therefore was preparing to enter into the P3 deal in order to secure some funding from P3 Canada.   If future development cost charges did not cover the costs of the proposal, the burden would be on Mission and Abbotsford residents.  Was it a coincidence that the proposed water line does not connect with our existing system but takes a turn west to Silverdale?  This would save Silverdale developers millions and force existing residents to subsidize sprawl.

At 10:50, after almost 5 hours of informed and powerful presentations by Mission citizens, council stopped the consultation with people still lined up to speak.   Councilor Horn stated the project could cost $2000 for each Mission home, but voted in favour anyway.  He, Mayor Atebe and Councilor Gidda attempted to argue that their vote to go forward was not an endorsement but merely gave all Mission residents an opportunity to vote on a referendum.  Fortunately, the consultant Delloit and Touche clarified that P3 Canada required a commitment from council to the P3 deal, subject to satisfactory funding from P3 Canada (for up to 25% of the cost) and assent of the electorate.  To their credit, Councilors Stewart, Stevens, Plecas and Scudder heard the concerns being expressed and voted against this commitment.

CAUSS believes that Mission should learn to live within its means rather than forcing growth at any cost.  Mission simply cannot afford the massive infrastructure costs associated with sprawl.  Its time to accept that a sustainable community must live within basic economic and environmental limits, and must ensure that the public interest is not overridden by corporate agendas.  The UN has declared water as a fundamental human right.  Clearly, the people of Mission agree.

Silverdale bylaws create an unacceptable risk for Mission taxpayers

September 15, 2009 6:57 am

CAUSS delivered a 12 page legal submission to Mission council at the zoning bylaw public hearing Sept.14 (see CAUSS legal opinion Sept 14, 2009) .  The opinion was funded by West Coast Environmental Law and warned Council that the combination of separate covenants for the developers Genstar and Madison, as well as a side escrow agreement recently signed by the developers and the District, creates a massive loophole which could result in loss of the amenities package for the District.  Such a loss would cost Mission taxpayers millions and therefore constitutes an unacceptable risk for the District.  The legal submission also warned of the environmental and tax implications of designating Neighbourhood one lands as Agricultural and revealed that despite assurances otherwise from District staff, the Environmental Protection section of the bylaw had been significantly altered.  When CAUSS pointed out that no information was available to explain an “oral taxation agreement” between the District and the developers, Mayor Atebe directed CAUSS to submit a Freedom of Information request in order to ensure that we have received all relevant documents.  This curious directive fails to realize that the public is entitled to all relevant documents PRIOR to the public hearing, and a FOI request typically takes the District months to process- an issue all the more bizarre as Genstar submitted a request for yet more amendments to the bylaw a mere 3 minutes before the hearing. To our shock, following the submission, Council chose not to mention these serious legal issues and instead focused on trivial items such as whether including “chickens” in the agricultural designation should be changed to “hens”.  Clearly Mayor and Council are over their heads with respect to planning of this massive development.

Mission council fails to stand behind their one and only Environmental Protection Bylaw.

August 27, 2009 1:33 pm

On Aug 24/09, Mission council voted unanimously to support a developer to enter into negotiations with DFO to bury two streams and flatten the surrounding ravine ecosystem in order to enlarge the footprint of a strip mall on the Lougheed Highway, near Wren Street.   This habitat destruction requires a variance from Mission’s one and only environmental protection bylaw called Streamside Protection Regulations (SPR) which would have protected the area.  Council’s chose to support the developer’s request despite a large turnout of concerned local residents who presented passionate pleas to preserve this environmentally sensitive area which is home to abundant wildlife and functions as a neighbourhood park for their children.  Residents also alerted council to slope stability concerns and submitted a petition of 110 names opposed to the variance. Instead of standing behind their SPR bylaw, Council is deferring the decision to DFO, knowing full well that fisheries values are likely not high enough in the 2 streams for DFO to object. It was very discouraging to witness the lack of care or compassion by council towards these residents- reminiscent of the contempt demonstrated towards concerned residents of Silverdale during the 8 day long genstar public hearing.  Sadly, this council seems to have adopted a stance of enduring public hearings, rather than listening to Mission residents, and has become well rehearsed in disregarding the public interest in order to facilitate development at any cost. CAUSS asks “Why hold public hearings if council is not willing to be guided by what the public says? Why have a environmental protection bylaw if council doesn’t stand behind it?”

Hillcrest entrance

Follow-up to Silverdale house of cards

August 18, 2009 1:42 pm

Has the Genstar bailout already begun? Not one of the council who voted in favour was able to answer CAUSS’ questions relating to a late item “escrow” agreement between Mission and Genstar/Madison development corporations Aug 4/09. Was council just playing dumb or was it the real thing?   According to a staff report on that night’s agenda, Council has placed a principal “agricultural use” on the Genstar lands in the upcoming zoning bylaw, despite these lands being designated “urban” March 2/09 when the bylaw was adopted.  Such a designation is argued to be appropriate despite implications of millions in tax revenue lost to the District.  While staff try to argue that Genstar has agreed to reimburse Mission if they achieve farm status (why not just pay the urban taxes directly?), according to Dennis Clark, no actual taxation agreement with the developers exists. How can Mission justify such an unprecedented sweetheart deal with the developers given recent escalations in Mission property taxes (5.8%), talk of a gas tax increase for the District (3%), significant increases in water and sewer costs to its citizens (15%) and recent disclosure that mission only has 1 million of the 3 million needed just to maintain our current road system? Apparently the adage you can’t have your cake and eat it too does not apply to the cozy relationship between the Silverdale developers and Mission.

Is the Silverdale house of cards finally collapsing?

July 28, 2009 9:53 am

In May/09, CAUSS alerted Mission residents to the fact that the deadline had long passed for signing the 20-year PDA financing agreement between Genstar and District of Mission.  This agreement, necessary for development of Neighbourhood one in Silverdale, requires a no-build covenant be submitted in order to ensure that conservation areas and parklands are protected.  The agreement also specifies how a number of amenities, totaling millions, will be financed. This issue should be of deep concern to weary Mission taxpayers who have recently endured significant increases in property taxes and a potential gas tax increase due to rapid development of our town.  In May, Dennis Clark told the Record that the District “fully expected Genstar to comply in a little while” and “if nothing progresses in about a month, the District may seek some legal advise or have discussions with Council”. Now we are 4 months past the deadline and still no PDA or word from Council.  The failure of the developers to sign is not surprising since they already informed Mission that the project was not viable for them and requested the financial impacts to their company be “softened” in a letter to Mission Sept. 29/08.  Mayor Atebe responded Oct.8/08 that “council will not re-open negotiations on the Phased Development Agreement at this late date” pointing out that it was Genstar’s legal counsel that wrote the agreement in the first place, and the 8 day long public hearing to review the proposal and the PDA, commenced.  However, according to city planner Sharon Fletcher, Mission is currently doing exactly what they said they would not- reopening negotiations with the developers and making amendments to the PDA.  Council must not put taxpayers on the hook to bail out the developers and saddle us with costly urban sprawl.

The haste of Silverdale planning was unnecessary

May 7, 2009 8:44 am

CAUSS submitted the following letter to all three local papers.  Only the record printed the letter, but chose to edit all references to broken promises made by Randy Hawes.

(see www.bclocalnews.com/fraser_valley/missioncityrecord/opinion/letters/44501207.html).

To the Editor,

When did time stop being of the essence?  Mission residents will recall the dizzying pace with which the plan for Silverdale’s Neighborhood One was created.  The Neighborhood Planning Advisory Committee had to double the frequency of its meetings to keep up with the haste.  Mission council had no time to address environment ministry concerns, passing the terms of reference for the environmental studies before ministry comments were received.  Council went as far as formally complaining to the provincial and federal government that the Ministry scientists were not reviewing genstar’s documents quickly enough.  Mission council also had no time to address the myriad of questions and concerns brought up by residents during the 8 day long public hearing including impacts to their wells, the consequences of demands on Mission’s already taxed city water supply, and the complete lack of a risk management analysis for the city. Instead, haste and hurry ruled the day culminating in a rush to pass third reading of the bylaws 3 days before Christmas.  Liberal MLA Randy Hawes defended the incumbent council’s haste and disregard for its citizens’ interests in an add, posted days before the municipal election, by promising everyone that genstar would pay for millions in amenities.   But then, just when the next step in planning required the developers to deliver commitments within 15 days of adoption of the bylaws, the essence of time appears to have ended.  Mission has confirmed that the developers failed to meet their first obligation under the Phased Development Agreement and are now months overdue. Clearly, the essence of time ended when it came to delivering what Mission council and Mr. Hawes promised on behalf of the developers.

 

Tracy Lyster

CAUSS

Minister evades responsibility and asks the Inspector to reply to CAUSS

May 5, 2009 8:03 am

Two months after our concerns about the provincial approval process for the Silverdale 20 year Phased Development Agreement (PDA) were sent to the Minister of Community Development, Kevin Kruegar, CAUSS received the following response from the Inspector of Municipalities.  The Inspector’s response, like his initial approval, fails to address the concerns of both environmental ministries (DFO, MoE), confuses the consultation process for the PDA with the Neigbouhood Plan, fails to address the legal problems with the PDA, and introduces incorrect information such as referring to the need for the PDA due to the “3400 hectare” size of the development (Neighbourhood One is less than 600 acres).  The Inspector’s response confirms that the approval process was merely a rubber stamp.

    

Wall, Dale CD:EX

 
     

Ref:  132274

Tracy Lyster, Chair 
Citizens Against Urban Sprawl Society
Dear Tracy Lyster:

Thank you for your email of March 2, 2009, addressed to Honourable Kevin Krueger, Minister, regarding the Phased Development Agreement (PDA) for South-West Mission.  Minister Krueger has asked that I respond on his behalf during the provincial election period.  I apologize for the delay in responding.

Under section 905.2(2) of the Local Government Act, the Inspector of Municipalities must approve PDAs that extend beyond a 10-year time frame.  The approval requirement was established in legislation to strike a balance between land use certainty for a development and the principle of not fettering the decision making of future councils for an extended period of time.

This is an important matter.  The responsibility to review, consider and either approve or not approve these bylaws needs to be taken very seriously.

In my review of any PDA that extends beyond a 10-year time frame, the key criteria considered include:

-Ensuring that adequate public consultation has been undertaken; 
-Reviewing the effort made by local government, in this case, the District of Mission (District), to undertake its own legal review and risk assessment so that the District’s Council was able to make an informed decision;

-Reviewing the sequencing of the provision of amenities to ensure significant public benefits will be in place prior to the completion of the project; and,

-Ensuring the size of the development warrants a 20-year agreement and is based on a reasonable business case.

In the case of South-West Mission, it was evident from coverage of the public hearing that there had been, and was, ongoing and extensive public debate with respect to this project within the District.  It was also clear from the record of the public hearing that substantial consultation had occurred over an extended period of time and the public had availed itself of those opportunities to state either their opposition or support for this project.

Further to this, the project is consistent with longer-term planning done by the District, which itself was based on significant public input.  For example, the project proposal is clearly set out in the District’s 2008 Official Community Plan (OCP).  That plan makes it clear that current planning for the area dates to at least 2005, when sustainable development guidelines for the area were adopted.  It is also clear that the District’s OCP is tied to the Fraser Valley Regional Growth Strategy and, through that strategy, to the long-term vision for the overall region.  Finally, the neighbourhood plan itself states that significant amenities will be delivered up front and that a development of 3400 hectares with a 20-year build out is clearly of a scale that would justify a longer-term PDA.

In undertaking any review of longer-term PDAs, the above criteria are applied to each project reviewed.  Following the application of these four criteria, the District was advised of the approval of the South-West Mission PDA on February 12, 2009.

Thank you, again, for your email.  I will ensure that the incoming Minister is advised of your concerns following the provincial election.

Sincerely,
Dale Wall 
Inspector of Municipalities

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