01/06/2012 04:34 EST | Updated 03/07/2012 05:12 EST

Massive mall planned for Tsawwassen treaty lands

Plans by the Tsawwassen First Nation to build a massive shopping centre along the north side of Highway 17 near the BC Ferries terminal are raising concerns with some local residents.

But Chief Kim Baird says she's not going to apologize for using land made available to the band by its recent treaty with the B.C. government to lift her people out poverty.

"We've made no secret about our need to build an economy for our community," said Baird, who negotiated the first urban treaty in modern times with the B.C. government in 2007.

"We've waited a century to participate in the economy and I'm certainly not going to apologize for trying to lead my community out of poverty."

The project, to be called Tsawwassen Mills, includes plans for outdoor retail space, office space, an entertainment complex and millions of dollars worth of highway infrastructure upgrades.

The band has partnered with Ivanhoe Cambridge to build the new mall, which will be second in size in B.C. only to the Metrotown Mall in Burnaby,

Baird says the next step in the current proposal is a public open house on January 11 and then the band members will vote on the whole 1.8 million square foot development proposal on Jan. 18. Construction could begin this year.

The band is also looking at plans for more than 1,000 new residential units and an industrial complex in the area.

Concerns raised by neighbours

But the mega project is raising infrastructure and environmental concerns in the nearby communities of Delta and Tsawwassen.

Independent MLA for Delta South MLA Vicki Huntington worries about the impact of a project this big.

"Traffic, economic impact on the local businesses — it's the building of a whole new community. All good for [the Twassassen First Nation], but not so go for their neighbours."

Huntington says all these developments will take away valuable habitat for migratory birds.

"I am disappointed that they have decided to take this route, developing with this level of density." she said.