Opinion: Hicks explains land use decision

The Juan de Fuca Land Use Committee made a very difficult decision to recommend to the CRD Board that the Marine Trail Holding’s development receive first and second reading and be sent to public hearing. The decision was especially complex given the location adjacent to the Juan de Fuca Trail, intense regional interest and the large scale of the development. After the B.C. government and the CRD  declined to purchase the lands, five of the seven members including myself, voted in favor of the recommendation.

The development’s 236 hectares are currently sub-divided into seven parcels and zoned for resource extraction.  The current zoning allows for clear-cut logging to the Juan de Fuca park boundary and each lot is allowed a house, outbuildings, travel trailer, boat, cars, mill and everything else that goes with rural living. The house may be built within 15 metres of the park boundary and the out-buildings may be seven metres from the boundary. In addition, the Juan de Fuca trail trespasses into the privately owned land in a couple of locations.

Marine Trail Holdings has proposed a development which provides a different use of this land. They propose to build 257 cabins of between 500 and 960 square feet, a lodge, six caretaker residences and two resort recreational buildings. They propose to build these structures in clusters of 20 to 40 units in a phased development scheme starting with 19 cabins and the lodge.

The developer has agreed to donate 42 per cent of his land to B.C. Parks and to protect, by a CRD covenant from clear-cut, a further 44 per cent of his land. They will build on 14 per cent of their land and protect 86 per cent from clear-cut.  In addition, they will donate back the Juan de Fuca Provincial Park lands that trespass on their property, they will provide a minimum 150 metre buffer from the trail to their buildings and, their cabins will not be visible from the Juan de Fuca trail or the highway.

The vast majority of the e-mails, letters and presentations from the public requested the committee deny the application  in order to protect the integrity of the Juan de Fuca Trail. The five supporting members felt strongly that protecting the Juan de Fuca Trail is the defining issue of the application and in making their decision they weighed the two options. Denying the application and leaving the seven lots in their present zoning would not prohibit the eventual clear-cut of the lands as well as resource extraction  development. Given the lack of interest from government, the five members of the committee felt their best option to protect the Juan de Fuca Trail is to consider the development and send the proposal to public hearing.

In addition to the committee’s reasoning for sending the proposal to public hearing, the Pacheedaht First Nation, adjacent to Port Renfrew enthusiastically support this development. They look forward to supplying the cedar beams, the milling of the cedar siding,  carpentry jobs and landscaping,  housekeeping, serving and culinary positions. The Pacheedaht have plans for the building of an artists’ venue for guests to watch canoe building, totem pole carving, cedar bark weaving, mask carving and the sale of art from neighbouring  Songhees, Esquimalt, Beecher Bay and T’sou-ke First Nations. This development, 20 minutes from  Pacheedaht would possibly provide a strong market for their art.

The remaining resource lands between Jordan River and Port Renfrew adjacent to the Juan de Fuca Park and Highway 14 are either Crown land or in a Timber License. These lands are used exclusively for resource extraction and forestry.

The majority of the Juan de Fuca Land Use Committee members supported the continuance of the Marine Trail Holding’s development application because it is the only land that will  be considered for development along the Juan de Fuca Trail, it is the best option for protecting the trail and it could provide meaningful employment and economic opportunities for all local residents from French Beach to Port Renfrew and Pacheedaht.

Mike Hicks

JDFEA Director