On the morning of March 19/15, large signs advertising the sale of Genstar and Madison’s 1,196 acre “Silverdale Lands” were posted on Clay road, Silverdale avenue, Gunn avenue, and Nelson street, in Mission. It was then announced that Genstar’s Silvermere Island and lake properties had already been sold, and Genstar had made a corporate decision to pull out of the development scene in B.C. altogether.
The sale of these lands signals the end of decades of highly controversial planned urban sprawl, as the entire 3,400 acre Silverdale hillside was ultimately slotted for residential housing development, with Genstar and Madison taking the lead. The development agreement required them to bring services to the area, including water, estimated at over $70 million. Without these services, urban density development would not be possible.
And now that the proponents have left the scene, what will the future be for Silvermere and the Silverdale Lands?
To answer this question we need to understand the values of these lands to the people of Mission and to the larger community.
Nestled between the highly productive Stave River, the Silvercreek wetlands, and the Fraser River, the Silverdale Lands include some of the most endangered fish and wildlife habitat in the Fraser Valley. Both the Stave River and Silvercreek support large populations of wild Pacific salmon, including over a half million Chum salmon, which spawn in the Lower Stave, and other species of salmonoids including Steelhead, Char and endangered Coho. This place, a tourism hotspot, draws scores of anglers to the Lower Stave every year. Silvermere Lake and Silvermere Island, located in the midst of the Lower Stave, are home to 113 animal species, including endangered Western Painted turtles and several other listed species (Red-legged frog, Barn owl, Bald eagle, Double Crested cormorant and Great Blue heron).
Just to the east of the Stave, the forests of Silverdale are also home to numerous endangered and listed species, including but not limited to: Red-legged and Tailed frogs, Western Screech owls, critically endangered Oregon Forest snails, and Band Tailed pigeons. Thriving populations of local wildlife, including several species of owls (e.g., Saw-Whet owls, Northern Pigmy owl), ravens, amphibians, black bear, bobcats and numerous songbirds, are just some of the treasures supported by this green jewel in Mission.
Not surprising, given this incredible biodiversity and abundance, the Silverdale Lands and surrounding area have a rich human heritage, with evidence of First Nation settlement dating back over 10,000 years, making this area one of the oldest known human settlements in Canada. More recent settlement is comprised of mostly rural properties, whose residents rely on the steady, clean water of the Silverdale hillside for their wells. This water, derived from both surface and deeper aquifer sources, and filtered by the local environment, would be at risk from development disturbance.
The decision made in the 1970s, to plan and build a massive residential development in Silverdale and another residential development on Silvermere Island, completely failed to adequately take into account these tremendous environmental, cultural and historical values. As a result, numerous concerns over the years have been raised by local residents about contamination and degradation of their wells. More recently, both federal fisheries scientists and provincial environmental ministry scientists cautioned Mission that “moving forward without designating conservation areas and evaluating potential impacts would likely lead to an ecologically unsustainable development” (DFO Oct.17/08 & MOE Oct.21/08). The plan also failed to realistically account for the massive financial investment that would be necessary to provide services to the development, or for the drain on existing water sources, and subsequent costs of over $300 million for a new water source, to satiate the thirst of twice our current population.
Can we imagine a future for Silvermere and the Silverdale Lands that respects the land and all of its human and nonhuman inhabitants? A vision that does justice to its priceless environmental, cultural, and spiritual heritage? A vision which doesn’t bleed our community coffers dry, and assists with our water conservation and carbon reduction efforts? It is time to begin serious discussions about the potential for a world-class park, establishing conservation areas for endangered species, for ecotourism facilities, a wildlife refuge at Silvermere, and even an outdoor research lab on local species at risk for a new university campus. As we free our minds from assuming past decisions must proceed, and sprawl on the hillside is all we can do, the possibilities are endless. All it takes is a “shift” in our imagination!
There is a purpose for everything. The sale of the Silverdale Lands represents a once in a lifetime opportunity for our community to take a breath, steer our course away from urban sprawl, and listen to the land and all of its inhabitants, past, present, and future.
Tracy Lyster CAUSS
Despite Genstar’s exit from the development scene, CAUSS will continue to monitor and review development activity in the area. This website will be archived while we focus on our Footprint Press publication.
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.
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.
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
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?”
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.
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.
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.
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.