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Multi-million dollar Spirit Bay opens sales centre

David Butterfield showing the architectural model of Spirit Bay. - Britt Santowski
David Butterfield showing the architectural model of Spirit Bay.
— image credit: Britt Santowski

Development will aid Beecher Bay band

The new development at Beecher Bay, known as Spirit Bay, is going full steam ahead.

On Wednesday, May 7, the press and government officials got a sneak peak at Spirit Bay’s first building and an architectural model of the phases of development.

Spirit Bay is a result of a partnership between the Sc’ianew (Chenuh) Beecher Bay Band and the Trust for Sustainable Development headed by David Butterfield, with a respective 51 to 49 per cent split in ownership. Spirit Bay will ultimately include between 500 to 800 residential units on 100 acres, estimated to be built over the next 10 years. The units will be sold based on a 99-year lease, and they will be priced from $259,900 and up. The project is worth $300 to $400-million.

Chief Russell Chipps and David Butterfield hosted the May 7 event, and those in attendance included Grand Chief Doug Kelly,  Leader of the Opposition John Horgan, and Juan de Fuca director Mike Hicks.

Interestingly, the impetus behind this entire project was the desire of the Beecher Bay Band to get BC Transit to provide service to their community.

“It might sound funny,” Chief Chipps half-joked at the end of his welcome speech, “when we started out with this venture, it was about getting the bus here. We just wanted the transit bus to come pick some of us up here.” This incentive, he said, was what ultimately got them started “down this road.”

Online documentation dating back to 2007 shows the Beecher Bay First Nations requesting regular transit service to their community. It still hasn’t come to pass. Literally.

The real, long term motivation for this development, though, is two fold. First and most immediate, the development will provide viable, long term employment opportunities for the First Nation people at Beecher Bay. To date, employment opportunities have materialized.

“Everything that’s been done here from day one has been done by our people,” said Chief Chipps.  “The site clean up initially engaged about 30 band members, and there are currently about 15 still employed at cleaning the site.”

The second bigger-picture objective, is to create opportunity for future generations.

“This venture is not about the adults in the community; it’s about the future, it’s about a new vision, it’s about a new way of life for us. ... this is about our children,” said Chief Chipps.

Grand Chief Doug Kelly endorsed Chipps’ vision.

“I really appreciated his (Chief Chipps) remarks about children. I really appreciated his remarks about the job of leadership. The job of leadership is to create hope, that our children have an opportunity for a better tomorrow, that they have an opportunity that the adults did not have,” commented Kelly.

NDP Leader John Horgan echoed their sentiments.

“Whenever I come upon Russ, that’s his preoccupation, is the next generation. I’ve learned so much from you Russ, and so much from the Cheanuh people, about the importance of passing on a better world to the generation that comes after us.”

“Projects, like (Spirit Bay) we all need to look at as a society, as a nation, as a global community,” said Grand Chief Kelly. “We’re taking far too much away from Mother Earth, and if we continue to do that, we won’t be leaving our grandchildren very much. So these kinds of projects, and the way we look at how we develop our own homes and our own housing, and how we take care of Mother Earth, it’s an opportunity to learn and to do things differently.”

“I feel that for my generation the great challenge has been how do you develop human habitation without destroying the eco-system,” said David Butterfield. He hopes to take sustainable living to a “whole different level here.”

“The first initiative we are going to do is that we are going to go with a district heating system,” said Butterfield. “(It) means that people living here will have their homes heated and their hot water heated by a transfer of heat from the ocean.” His vision is known as ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC), which uses the temperature difference between cooler (deep) and warmer (shallow, or surface) ocean waters to produce heat.

Chief Chipps acknowledged the different viewpoints moving into the project.

“Not everyone is buying into the (Spirit Bay) Group, but (a 100 per cent approval) is never ever going to happen,” said Chipps.

Band support was ultimately quite high. Three different votes were required to move this project from concept to reality. The bylaw passed at 80 per cent.

The presentation centre opened to the public on Saturday, May 10.

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