Common sense over emotional outcry

Being on the unpopular side of the fence is never easy, but in the case of the ruckus over the resort development being proposed by Marine Trail Holdings it is a matter of right versus might.

Opponents do not want development anywhere close to the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail fearing it will ruin the wilderness experience and bring too many people to the area. As it is now, only those who can hike in can experience the trail.

My stance is that as a private landowner Ender Ilkay has the legal right to go through the process of applying for a rezoning on the 583 acres he bought legally from Western Forest Products. While many may not like it, that is the law. The bylaws have been made with a lot of time, consideration and input into what is best overall. In the end he may not get approval, but he has the right to try.

The Juan de Fuca Electoral Area Land Use Committee saw this as legitimate and five out of seven members voted to allow the proposal to go to the next step in the process. This may or may not have been in response to the call for a full vote by the entire Capital Regional District Board on land use in the JDFEA. Again, the voting structure is being called into question and some want changes made. This happened once before with the $100 buy-a-vote scheme and the province agreed that system was improper and changed it back to the way it was.  On April 21, Ida Chong, Minister of Community, Sport and Cultural Development denied the request made by the CRD Board to change the voting structure, stating in a letter to Geoff Young, Chair: “The CRD is equipped with tools that provide the Board with alternative approaches to address concerns that the Board may have about its interest in regional land use matter.”

There has been a lot of protesting because of the way the provincial government allowed Western Forest Products to take its land out of TFL 25 and sell it to pay off debt. Again, this was a private landowner. Angry activists and confused locals battled it out in a number of town hall meetings, friends and neighbours disagreed and tempers flared. Those protests and accusations went on for two years and have rolled over onto this rezoning application. The whole issue should be one of legal rights and freedoms under the current regulations. No one wants to be told what they can and cannot do on the land they legally own.

The proposed development area is made up of seven parcels of land, some of which lie close to the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail. The trail was built on land with second-growth trees, it is not old-growth forest. It is a beautiful trail and deserves protection. No one is proposing ruining the trail or the public’s enjoyment of it. Of the 583 acres owned by Marine Trail Holdings, 245 will be dedicated parkland. It is also a phased-development over 20 years. Perhaps the CRD could look at how the first phase develops out and have some type of restriction on further building approvals if the first phase doesn’t live up to expectations. We are talking about 263 hectares out of 132,000 hectares in the Rural Resource Lands.

The Official Community Plan for the Rural Resource Lands and the Regional Growth Strategy both support recreational uses, access to the ocean and appropriately-scaled recreational uses. If the scale of the proposed development is too large then some negotiations should be called for. There is a reasonable way to allow all of the issues to be addressed on both sides — if the will is there.

There have been accusations of misinformation on both sides and there is little chance they can or will see eye-to-eye.

In 2010 the CRD spent $18.8 million to acquire land in the Juan de Fuca/Sooke area and they have no more money to buy land at this time.Chances are the environmentalists can’t afford to buy it either.

What is called for is reasonable dialogue with both sides coming to some sort of mutually beneficial agreement. The dialogue should be between the CRD and the proponent only. Both have heard the arguments from all quarters, now it is time to let them do their jobs without being inundated with more of the same rhetoric.

If the future is eco-tourism, let it be available to everyone, not just the physically able. Personally, I would look forward to a day-long hike along the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail or the beach and then a long leisurely evening in front of a fireplace in a warm cabin. How bad can that be?