Members of an Esquimalt First Nation band danced before the start of a public hearing on a rezoning application for a resort in the Jordan River area.

Three days of public hearings on JDF resort rezoning

Bus loads of opponents fill EMCS theatre

They came from all across the Capital Regional District and they were loud, vocal and emotional. They were the people who wanted to speak out against two bylaws being considered by the Capital Regional District in regard to a development proposal by Ender Ilkay and Marine Trail Holdings Ltd.

The 5 p.m. meeting actually began in the parking lot of Edward Milne Community School. The rising smoke from a barbecue was conjoined with the drum beat for members of the Esquimalt First Nation who came to dance for the bused-in crowd.

On hand were two RCMP officers, CRD personnel and members of the Sooke Fire Department.

At issue for the past few years is a development proposal by Marine Trail Holdings Ltd, to build 257 resort cabins and auxiliary buildings about five kilometres west of Jordan River on 236 hectares. The developer would preserve 86 per cent of the property for park land. The developer’s land sits in the Juan de Fuca Rural Resource Lands which cover an area of approximately 131,750 hectares.

Juan de Fuca Area Director Mike Hicks called for some reason at the beginning of the meeting and said he hoped there would be no heckling or booing, although he did not request the attendees to refrain from clapping and cheering.

For the Sept. 6 meeting, more than 40 people were signed up to speak.

“It could be a bit of a marathon,” said Hicks and he was right.

Arnie Campbell came forward and spoke for members of Otter Point and Shirley Resident Ratepayers Association (OPSRRA). He spoke about the scale of the project, condition of Highway 14, first responders and the strata development. He said there was concern over the government decision making process.

Walter Jones, from Port Renfrew, came forward and talked about treaty agreements and stated that the Pacheedaht First Nation were still legal owners of the land because they never signed an agreement.

Some spoke against the CRD Voting Committee A, saying that they should not be entrusted to make this decision which affects the entire region, province, country and world.

“Come to your senses and rule on this application as a board, don’t allow a small committee out west to dictate to us,” said View Royal resident John VanBeek.

Wendy Morton, a West Coast Road resident, asked, “When do we stop the greed… How many times do we have to say ‘no.’”

Only two people at the Tuesday night meeting spoke in favour of the development.

Dave McClimon, from Sooke, spoke of the need for jobs and said that most of the people there (at the meeting) didn’t understand that.

Zachery Doeding also spoke in favour. He said the Pacheedaht First Nation was in favour of the proposal and it could signal an economic boost for the community.

“Do what is best for the trail and respect the Pacheedaht,” he said.

The speakers continued to extol the virtues of the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail and park and the need for preservation for future generations.

One by one the speakers stated their opposition on such grounds as the “future of humanity and the rights of Mother Earth.” Some wanted the CRD to get the land back. Greenhouse gases and climate change were also cited as reasons to deny the application.

Vicky Husband said the provincial government was the real culprit in all this and they should not be let off the hook. She (and others) stated that with the upcoming elections, each board member would be held personally accountable to her.

Day two: The atmosphere was much more subdued for the second consecutive night of public hearings held at EMCS last Wednesday.

The parking lot was nearly empty and  inside the auditorium seats were only one-third full.

Ilkay was again in a attendance, and took to the mic to defend his position.

“I feel like I’ve been ‘villainified,’” he said about the two-and-a-half year long process of attempting to get approval for the development. “I kind of feel like I’m going to be villainfied again after this is through, no matter which way it goes.”

Ilkay said he hoped people will understand that if the decision to allow the building of 257 cabins is overturned, the only alternative left may be logging the area.

“I’m concerned that our only other zoning is resource extraction and I’m saying to my partners, no, we don’t do that,” he said. “Maybe I’m wrong again because I’ve been wrong a lot in this process, maybe people are saying it’s OK, harvest it, it’ll grow back. And I’ve heard some people say that.”

He cleared up some misunderstandings such as the issue of the area being Crown land, which Ilkay said it hasn’t been for two hundred years. It was removed out of the TFL (Tree Farm License) by Western Forest Products a few years ago and sold to Marine Trail Holdings in 2008. He also said that while people have talked about wanting to add the land to Juan de Fuca Provincial Park, no one has come forth with an offer to take it