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Juan de Fuca resort plan draws negative response

A large crowd of approximately 100 people filled the chamber during the February 15 Juan de Fuca Land Use Committee. - Pirjo Raits
A large crowd of approximately 100 people filled the chamber during the February 15 Juan de Fuca Land Use Committee.
— image credit: Pirjo Raits

No matter how many concessions and changes Ender Ilkay makes to his marine trail development proposal there doesn't seem to be any way to please a loud and determined group of environmental activists.

The Juan de Fuca Land Use Committee met on Tuesday, Feb. 15 to consider a rezoning and development permit application put forth by Ilkay.

Over the next 20 years Ilkay wants to build a tourist resort on seven parcels of land encompassing approximately 236 hectares in the Rural Resource lands in the Juan de Fuca Electoral Area. His land sits close to the Juan de Fuca Trail and is bordered by Crown land and parks.

His plans include 257 tourist cabins, lodge, two recreation centres and six caretaker residences. Of the 236 hectares, 203 hectares will remain undeveloped with 98 hectares of land being dedicated to BC Parks and 105 hectares protected.

The LUC had already considered the application in September, 2010 and moved to refer the development proposal to agencies and the public for comment. A public information meeting was held in October, 2010 and public submissions were received until November, 2010.

At the meeting on February 15, the LUC was to consider proceeding with more referrals of the revised tourist resort proposal, the proposed Phased Development Agreement, and proposed Bylaw 3755 amendment to the Rural Resource Lands Use Bylaw, to agencies and a public information meeting.

The other option to be considered was to deny the application and not proceed with referrals.

The ensuing meeting was lengthy with dozens of people coming up before the LUC to state their opinions. The majority of those in attendance were anti-development and as each spoke they were rewarded with plenty of clapping and back slapping. The few lone voices in the wilderness who dared to give their opinions were met with what amounted to silence.

Probably the most poignant presentation of the meeting came from John Paul Jones from the Pacheedaht First Nation in Port Renfrew.

He turned to the packed room and said he was "very frightened, very uncomfortable."

He stated that the land in question was in the Pacheedaht's traditional territory and a moratorium should be placed on all development and all land until their treaty negotiations were finalized. He said the band felt excluded by not being informed nor invited to the table.

The Pacheedaht First Nation was given the chance to comment and they indicated they supported the Marine Trail Resort proposal as it would encourage positive growth for their area over a number of years. Jones stated that the entire band was not included.

"Our private land was stolen by the Western system, we have no say in it. None of the Pacheedaht speak their Mother tongue, know our culture and we have no where to go. Preservation of that little bit of land, that's what we're here for." said Jones. "A whole group of people were not invited to the table. The Western system is oppressive and our way of life is gone."

Russell Jones of the Pacheedaht came forward as well and stated that, "if you people are law abiding, the ownership of the land belongs to the Pacheedaht until treaty negotiation are settled."

He said the West Coast Trail belongs to his people and they never receive any money from the users of the trail.

"We never got a nickel, we don't get nothing from it."

Area director Mike Hicks stated that they (the LUC) didn't have the power to deal with treaty negotiations and that they were simply carrying on the process. He said, "all will be taken into consideration, we're gathering information."

Speakers to come forward in support of rejecting the application and placing a moratorium on development included: Vicky Husband, Zoe Blunt, Rosemary Jorna, Otter Point resident; John Hasell, Teri Alcock, Gerard Leblanc, plus other vocal local residents and UVic students and activists.

They basically all called for the LUC to deny the application for a variety of reasons, which included the severe impact on the integrity of the provincial park, assault on our wild coast image, fear of flipping, a vacation corridor from Sooke to Port Renfrew, scale of the development, lack of services and infrastructure, need for development in Port Renfrew, flaws in the plan, etc.

"Send it back to the drawing board," said Zoe Blunt. "The park is the goose that lays the golden egg."

A few voiced their support of the project stating that; clear cut logging could occur within the private lands if the owner so desired, some jobs would be created, economic development was necessary in the region, and the resort would be one chance for better access to the trail without destroying it.

"They're not building something from coast to coast," said Dave McClimon in response to comments that the entire coastline would be dotted with vacation homes.

When it came time for the committee to express their opinions it became clear who stood on which side of the issue.

George Miller said, "I believe in due process and there is a hostile group here tonight. We should follow the planners recommendation and refer it to the agencies."

Ted Mueller said that when people sat down with a common purpose, there was no 'we' and 'they', and if there was, no resolution was possible.

Heather Phillips did not support the motion and, among other comments, stated that this type of development should be in Port Renfrew.

"We will be vilified forever if we didn't say 'no,'" said Patricia Sloan.

At the end of the three-and-a-half hour meeting the committee voted 5-2 in favour of sending the application for further referrals.

The Capital Regional District's Land Use Committee A, comprised of Mayors Stew Young, Janet Evans, John Ranns and Dave Saunders and JDF director Mike Hicks will ultimately make the final decision.

Grumblers at the end of the meeting said there would be consequences and most likely more protests because many felt it was an issue for the entire regional district rather than one to be dealt with by those living in the area. It should be noted that the land in question is private property, not Crown land or forest company land.

Another public information session will take place on March 3 at Edward Milne Community School.

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