Development on a large section of Mission’s waterfront could begin in a matter of months – rather than years – according to comments made to council during a public hearing on Monday night. The owners of the land, along with interested developers, claim elements of the District’s Waterfront Revitalization Plan is standing in the way.
The purpose of the meeting was to hear the public’s response to a proposed bylaw to add a new designation to the Official Community Plan Bylaw which would impact close to 300 acres.
The proposal to develop on about 90 acres of waterfront industrial-zoned land, owned by the Braich family, took centre stage.
The District is currently working on a comprehensive plan for the entire waterfront. However, the Braich family owns about a third of the area and has been negotiating a deal with the Martini Group to sell the property to allow a huge industrial development consisting of 21 buildings.
According to a drawing posted on Facebook by a member of the Braich family, the land would be divided into two sections, a Corporate Campus and an Industrial Business Park.
This proposal has never been officially presented to council, and there is a concern among those who spoke against the bylaw that its passing would halt development until the District’s waterfront plan is completed in two or three years.
According to District staff, that is not the case.
“While some might see this new designation as a suspension of development in the waterfront, the WCPA will in fact help focus resources and attention to an area that has seen little to no investment over the past three decades,” said Dan Sommer, director of development services in Mission.
Mayor Pam Alexis said anyone can make an application to council, regarding the waterfront, but there are constraints that would have to be addressed.
Speaking at the public hearing, former mayor Randy Hawes spoke about the Martini development plan saying the group met with staff and Alexis and “left with the impression that because there was a study coming there would be no development permit issued for them for perhaps two to three years,” which he said drove the Martini Group away from the idea.
Hawes also said the group has already spent $1 million in studies and planned to create 21 buildings, including two window manufacturing businesses that could create “well over 1,000 new jobs for Mission.”
“That’s being lost here so we can do yet another plan,” he said.
Thomas Martini was also on hand to speak to council. He said he understands that council has some difficult decisions to make.
Martini implored them to consider how significant the current zoning was and said the “Braich lands are the waterfront lands, the significant amount of land they have, over 80 acres, really represents the large substantial asset that’s sitting there on the river that’s underdeveloped and under utilized.”
Martini added that if the industrial proposal proceeded it would “lessen the tax burden on all the citizens of Mission. I think that’s significant.”
He added it would create more good jobs close to home and increase the industrial tax base.
Kenny Braich, representing the Braich family, spoke several times during the hearing.
He called his family’s land “the most over-scienced piece of land” he knows of, considering all the geo-tech, environmental, First Nations archaeological and other studies that have taken place over the decades.
While he acknowledged the District is working on a plan for the waterfront area that includes park land, residential, business, cultural opportunities and industrial, he noted the Braich lands proximity to the Mission Raceway.
“You can’t put residential on our site with the Mission Raceway operating,” he said adding the noise level of about 100-plus decibels is far higher than the accepted level of 60 decibels.
Braich also said the family’s property is “completely stand alone” and the proposed development would not impact the other waterfront lands or cause issues with structures like the Mission Bridge, the CP Rail line or the sewer pipe crossing that goes through their property.
He went on to say that the delay in building the sewer crossing under the Fraser River has already impacted a different development proposal for his lands that would have seen a cluster of development, involving the Pattison Group, and would have included a Great Wolf Lodge.
Braich said that project could have moved on had the sewer crossing been completed, but in the end, it “died a natural death.”
However, after that deal collapsed, the Martini Group came along with a new plan.
He also said his family has always worked with the district when needed.
“We appreciate and believe that what you are doing is right for the other property owners because they are constrained … In my humble opinion, the greatest thing for this community is that you allow us to proceed … your staff, and council, cannot engineer and plan our property better than we can.”
He also said they don’t need a dollar of public money.
After the hearing, most councillors felt that more information about the industrial project was needed.
Coun. Jag Gill said he wanted to see the Martini plan and the studies they have performed on the land, which has never been presented to council.
Coun. Mark Davies agreed saying “this is definitely something we want to take a good hard look at and understand.”
Other councillors wanted more information regarding the sewer crossing line and other agreements that may be in play.
Council eventually voted to defer a decision until more information can be presented.