By Mike Archer. Referred to as a project which would restore the abandoned scar left by the failure of previous developments, plans for a massive new townhome proposal for the south side of Sumas Mountain were revealed at Monday’s public hearing in council chambers.
Dubbed ‘Highline,’ the proposal, which includes upward of 555 new townhomes, parks, trails and amenities on the 90-acre site, drew fire from residents and others at hearing over traffic concerns as opponents lined up to criticize the connection to the massive property through Sandringham Drive.
Proponents offered the results of their traffic study which shows the development being built in such a way as to focus traffic on Lower Sumas Mountain Road and Whatcom Road.
Opponents were not convinced.
Current congestion up and down Whatcom as well as backed up traffic on side roads and blocked lines of sight were all brought up as current concerns which will be exacerbated if the development is allowed to go ahead.
Access of emergency vehicles and construction vehicles during construction were also brought up us issues to be resolved and City staff were on the defensive about their ability to actually enforce any bylaws or rules which are put in place.
A major concern which went mostly unanswered is the traffic congestion at the eastbound and even the westbound exits from Highway 1 at Whatcom which, during rush hour, often overflow back out onto the Highway creating dangerous situations on the highway.
Regina Dalton warned council that, not only must something be done to fix the current situation, but she warned that the problem will get much worse if the City allows hundreds more vehicles to join the traffic coming in and out at the Whatcom overpass.
Concerns over the viability and stability of the slope on the south side of Sumas Mountain were raised and the proponent insisted that geological studies support the proposal.
Councillor Moe Gill, in discussing a previous townhome proposal on the hillside, had said, “One of these days that hill is coming down” in reference to concerns over the stability of the slope. Then-councillor John Smith offered at the time that the City should never have approved some of the development on Sumas Mountain.
The Estevan Court proposal was for 51 townhomes and was rejected by council.
Opponents at Monday’s public hearing were also concerned that the huge proposal, if approved, will be in addition to other proposals currently making their way through the planning process for several other developments on top of Sumas Mountain and along the southern slopes.
While he credited the proponents with coming up with, what he referred to as, “An interesting approach’ to the geotechnical problems on the site, former District of Abbotsford Planning Director in the 1990s Wayne Gordon, disagreed with the proponents over their assessment of the traffic issues raised by the development.
Council was also advised to consider additional liability protection for taxpayers waiving any future claims for damages as a result of any decision to allow the proposal to go ahead which might arise if Sumas Mountain moves again and causes any damage.
Studies On Sumas Mountain
A number of studies have been performed over the years on Sumas Mountain and what is known as the Huntingdon Formation.
The 1999 Sumas Huntingdon Study identified the fact that the upper and lower parts of the Formation were made up of separate kinds of deposits, with the lower portion being made up primarily of sand and gravel.
The Burnaby_Mountain_Geologic_Faults_-_BGC_Report revealed ” … thick glacial
and post-glacial sediments which overlie the area,” but that, “At present , there are no known active faults in the Lower Mainland.”
“However,” the report continued, “that does not mean there are no active faults. Recent work
in the U.S. has revealed active faults within 5 km of the border, and it is possible that given comparable research active faults could be found north of the border.”
Perhaps the most worrisome report comes out of the US as described in a 2008 Vancouver Sun story:
In 2008 the new Boulder Creek Fault was discovered under the Casacde Mountains jjust south of Abbotsford.
New Fault Line Under Sumas Mountain Discovered
“U.S. seismologists warn a shallow fault line near Abbotsford could cause an earthquake the size of a 2001 temblor that caused $2 billion in damage to the Seattle area.
New seismic-hazard maps released by the U.S. Geological Survey show the Boulder Creek fault 40 kilometres east of Bellingham running 11 kilometres lengthwise and 17 km across into B.C. near Abbotsford.
“It wouldn’t have a lot of impact in Bellingham, but would have a lot of consequences for our friends in B.C.,” Seattle seismologist Craig Weaver told the Bellingham Herald.
Other Published Research
- Brett Hollis Tallentine Gilley
BSc Simon Fraser University 1999
Conclusions Page 10
- Department of Mines and Technology
- Paleantology Sumas Mountain
- City of Abbotsford
- BGC Engineering
- Vancouver Sun 2008
- Geological Survey of Canada
- Dr Tracy Lyster
Cover Photo from Vancouvertrails.com