Hundreds of acres are on the table to potentially change hands in what local municipal and First Nations politicians are calling a historic land deal.
Beecher Bay Chief Russ Chipps, along with Langford Mayor Stew Young and Metchosin Mayor John Ranns, announced Monday that a proposed land agreement would see the Beecher Bay First Nation exchange Treaty lands for a share of development land in Langford.
“I don’t think it’s ever been done before; it’s pretty extraordinary,” Ranns said. “This is the biggest thing we’ve ever done in Metchosin.”
Ultimately, 250 acres of Treaty lands within Metchosin would be preserved as green space in perpetuity and in return, Metchosin will shrink its northern boundary with Langford by 380 acres to allow for the creation of a new business park development.
This exchange will require a municipal boundary change and still requires public consultation and various levels of government approvals.
“This is just the very beginning of the public process,” Ranns said, adding that a mailout explaining the proposal is expected to arrive at Metchosin homes this week. “I just hope the rest of the community realizes this is essential to our vision.”
The business park is touted to create as many as 4,000 permanent jobs and the Beecher Bay First Nation would own a third of the site. They would also enter into a tax sharing agreement relating to the business park development with Langford and Metchosin.
“This partnership promises to bring prosperity to the Beecher Bay people while also protecting valuable green space for generations,” Chipps said in a release. “This is another step on our journey toward economic independence.”
Young also noted in the release that the proposed business park will be an expanded version of one already being considered by the City of Langford.
“This is a historic agreement between municipalities and a First Nation, creating family supporting jobs for our region,” he said. “Having high-paying jobs in the community where you live is important to everyone in Langford, Metchosin and Beecher Bay.”
As for the land that could potentially be part of Langford one day, Ranns said, “this is strictly vacant land in a very remote corner … Most people don’t even realize it’s Metchosin.”
While there is substantial benefit to the three partners, he said, there is also significant benefit to the greater region as a whole. Ranns noted that it also shows a rural municipality can do its part to contribute to the overall economic health of the region.
“This has haunted me for years on how we would achieve this,” he said. “How do we save Metchosin and get the Band the economic development they need? This is the best I could come up with to solve that and I hope the residents see that.”