The future of Mission’s waterfront lands sparked some emotions Tuesday night as candidates for council and mayor sparred over the city’s master plan for the area.
Candidates vying for seats on council in the Oct. 15 election gathered for a spirited debate held at the Clarke Foundation Theatre. The only candidate who was a no-show was H.S. Kenny Braich, but the area where he owns land in Mission prompted the most passionate response during the debate.
The format saw groups of candidates answering different questions and then having a chance for a rebuttal in an event hosted by the Mission Regional Chamber of Commerce.
One group was asked if they each supported the city’s current master plan for hundreds of acres on the waterfront.
Mayor Paul Horn defended the city’s plan and said he is actively working to attract a “serious” developer to execute the vision created through public engagement.
“When we spoke to people in Mission, they told us they wanted to see that land divided between residential, commercial and industrial uses – that’s what we have,” Horn said. “They told us they wanted a place to access the river – that’s what we have (in the plan).”
Horn added that some portions of the waterfront on the eastern side have doubled in value in the past few years, as plans were developed, to about $175 million.
Angel Elias said she supported the city’s plan, but added that while it’s not perfect, it’s a good starting point. She supports multiple uses for the lands, such as adding a boat launch, to transform the area so it’s something more than a big “sandbox.”
Arsh Dhaliwal said he doesn’t really like the city’s plan, but supports it mainly because it can be changed during the process to strengthen it.
One person who hates the plan is mayoral candidate Dustin Hiles, who told the crowd that, if elected, he would work to cancel the plan and start over. Hiles said the plan was unfair to the current private landowners. He also criticized the city for not having bought the land decades ago for a cheaper price.
“It’s a pipe dream and it’s a lie,” Hiles said, raising his voice.
In a rebuttal, Horn pushed back with criticism about the city’s plan in relation to changing zoning for private land.
“Some people think they can be elected and not understand how OCPs and zoning work,” he said. “It’s not only OK to plan on private land – it’s the law.”
A second hot topic at the campaign event was how to develop the “upper Mission” area, with many candidates complaining about the lack of retail options for residents.
Steve McLay said he is “frustrated” because residents only have two places to shop, a liquor store and a cannabis store. He said he can’t believe residents don’t even have a coffee shop nearby.
Pash Brar said she’s tired of “schlepping” all the way down the hill in her area and then back again just for a jug of milk. Brar said she would advocate to develop the area to add more commercial space.
Ken Herar said council is working to develop plans for more retail in the area.
“We definitely need mall space, not an industrial park,” he said.
Danny Plecas told the crowd the key is to add more density because more residents will attract more commercial development.
The meeting covered other topics, including public safety, the homeless and zoning.
Carol Hamilton said the city needs to tweak its zoning and bylaws to create wider street standards.
“We’ve seen that parking is an issue,” Hamilton said.
Jag Gill said the city needs to create more housing options through less red tape.
“It shouldn’t’ take a year to move your mom into a coach house,” Gill said.