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Mission elects pro-development slate to council

Pro-development candidates won every council seat tonight in Mission, home to the ongoing Silverdale controversy.

Of the five incumbent council members who ran for re-election, only Scott Etches was not returned to power. He and retiring councillor John Pearson will be replaced by development-friendly candidates Danny Plecas and Mike Scudder.

Etches said his refusal to focus only on the development issue during his campaign contributed to his defeat. Etches claimed the election results were a sign that Mission residents are tired of the Silverdale question.

"Voters responded very clearly that the people of Mission want the development to move forward. The people who said that they were against the development said they wanted a referendum. This is their referendum."

Silverdale, a rural community in southwest Mission, has been site of a multi-year battle between local activists and major developers. A proposed project by Genstar and Madison corporations would see the urbanization of Silverdale, transforming the forest landscape into a new suburbia.

Advocates for the development claim it will provide thousands of new homes and jobs. Activists fighting the housing plan say it is not sustainable, and that Mission council has abdicated too much of its responsibilities onto developers.

A recent public hearing was held to approve bylaws that would allow the development to proceed. The hearing, scheduled to last for one day, ran for six long sessions before being recessed by the council until after the election.

The atmosphere was calm and cordial in Mission council chambers when the results were announced tonight. But it was a different scene over in Silverdale.

Citizens Against Urban Sprawl Society (CAUSS) -- the lead activist group against Genstar and Madison -- held an election party in the community's cedar log heritage hall. The music was still blasting late into the night, despite the defeat of the group's three activist candidates.

Tracy Lyster, spokesperson for CAUSS, said the battle over Silverdale was far from over.

"Scott Etches is incorrect when he says the results indicate that the people of Mission want to move forward with this development," Lyster said. "Virtually all of the people that ran in this election promised responsible planning. The citizens of Silverdale have asked that council heed the recommendations of the senior environmental ministries, to hire a project manager, and to ensure responsible planning is done. If that's what the new council plans to do, then let's see it."

Incumbent Mayor James Atebe was re-elected tonight in a landslide, defeating his only rival by a margin of 4:1.

The Silverdale public hearing resumes on December 9th, a week after the new council will be sworn in.

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