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Burns Bog development creates a war of words
Developers behind a proposed commercial and residential project near Burns Bog say they can't get the conservation society to meet with them to discuss the issue.
Following extensive public consultation earlier this year, MK Delta Lands proposed a couple of development options before Delta council Nov. 19 for the nearly 120 hectares (300 acres) they own on the east and west side of Highway 91 at 72nd Avenue.
The new proposal takes into account the recent designation of Burns Bog into the Fraser River Delta Ramsar Site, an international wetlands convention.
MK Delta Lands postponed a previous public meeting Oct. 19 to reassess the designation's impact on their development.
"We never postponed to say, oh my gosh it's thrown us for a loop," said Julie Marzolf, spokesperson on the project. "It's because we thought, ok, that's something we anticipated, we think it's great."
The company conducted one open house, three workshops, and 10 site tours between April and August of this year, which they say was attended by 118 people.
In those workshops, it was proposed MK Delta Lands would transfer all 78 hectares (193 acres) on the west side of Hwy 91 to the Corporation of Delta for conservation purposes.
They then suggested a land swap with Delta on a portion of the remaining 36 hectares (89 acres) of the property, giving up mature conifer trees and sensitive wetlands in the south in exchange for bog lands that have already been disturbed for peat extraction.
The designation of Burns Bog within the Ramsar Site, while not legally binding, changed the mind of MK Delta Lands president Joanne Barnett.
"We had made the determination after much thought and consideration that we would seek development approvals for our own parcels and we would stay within our own lands which are not covered by the Ramsar designation," she said.
MK Delta lands are shown inside the blue outlines. The disturbed peat moss extraction is in the upper right and was originally proposed as an environmental swap with the southern portion of the 89 acres on the eastern side of Highway 91, but the Ramsar designation changed that.
Photo submitted by MK Delta Lands.
Barnett said the company assessed all of the land over five years—including hydrology, environment, land use planning considerations, ecological considerations—and decided to only seek development on the 35-hectare land parcel on the east of Highway 91 and 72nd Avenue.
But Eliza Olson, president of the Burns Bog Conservation Society, says she's skeptical of any guarantees made by MK Delta Lands.
"I think she's sincere in what she's doing and I'm sure she thinks she's doing right by her business but it's not my job to be a supporter for Joanne Barnett," she said.
Marzolf said MK Delta Lands has considered the environment in every aspect of the project and that Olson and the society have refused to meet with them since they first approached them seven years ago.
She said Olson and the conservation society refuse to take their calls, while spreading rumours and innuendos about MK Delta Lands in newsletters and emails.
One such newsletter obtained by the Leader reads:
"Since their first filing with the Corporation of Delta, MK Delta Lands Group Inc. have held public meetings, taken people on walks on their land and now they are wining and dining some of the neighbours. Their P.R. company is bragging that it is a 'done deal' and that it will just take time."
Marzolf says it's just not true.
"When that massive email went out, Joanne [Barnett] phoned her and said, 'I'd like to meet with you, Eliza. You've made some serious allegations here, I'd like to sit down with you face-to-face."
But Olson said she'll let the public do the talking on Dec. 5 at North Delta Secondary at 6 p.m. when MK Delta Lands presents their development options.
"It is Burns Bog that their land is on. It's not close, it is. People like to think of the conservation area as Burns Bog but that's not correct," said Olson, adding even MK Delta Lands' hydrologist has said the peat is 70 feet deep in some parts of the 89 acres.
"If you do some research on the actual benefits of development it isn't always that much of a benefit and it's going to create problems."
But Marzolf said the public meeting will be an opportunity for the company to show it has nothing to hide.
"We want to hear from you, we want to open up our reports to you."