07/30/2013 12:35 EDT | Updated 09/29/2013 05:12 EDT

Southlands public hearings approved by Delta council

Delta council has voted to give a developer the go-ahead to hold public hearings for a massive development proposal on the Southlands property in the south Tsawwassen area.

The roughly 500-hectare property near Boundary Bay and the Point Roberts border is zoned for agriculture use, but isn't in the Agricultural Land Reserve.

Sean Hodgins, a developer with Century 21, applied two years ago to build 950 homes over a 15-year period. He says portions of the Southlands will still be used for farming, green space, and natural habitat.

"We have the benefit of having a really good message to tell the community. Our job is quite easy," he said.

Only around 20 per cent of the land would be built up into homes, townhomes, and a neighbourhood centre, he said.

"The balance, the 80 per cent of the land would be dedicated to the municipality of Delta. That would be the agricultural land and wildlife land," he said.

Strong support, strong opposition

Local Cheryl Roth, who supports the development proposal, came to the meeting to show her support.

"This proposal going to bring nothing but good things for this community. It's been a really long time," she said.

A large contingent of supporters also showed their support at the meeting, by wearing identical green shirts.

But area resident Dana Maslovat believes that despite the strong pro-development contingent at the meeting, most area residents, like himself, are against the project.

"When you look at the number of correspondence received, which is in the thousands, a couple of hundred in green shirts doesn't represent the entire community," he said.

Southlands opponent Richard Kunz explained earlier that official community plan itself opposes the development, as it very specifically describes what should occur on that land, which is agriculture.

"The regional growth strategy that was published by Metro Vancouver two years ago, and agreed to by Delta and council members, clearly states: Southlands is agricultural and it should not be developed," Kunz said.

Debbie McBride, another local resident opposed to the development, says the current push is just the latest chapter in an ongoing battle of opposing interests over the fate of the Southlands.

"We've been fighting this for 25 years. They finally figured we've waited them out long enough and we're going to try again."

With Delta's vote Monday night to proceed, public hearings on the development will start in late October.