The CRD Land Use Committee A voted to move Ender Ilkay’s controversial Marine Trail Holdings development to public hearing on July 13, in the next stage of a process that has been contentious ever since it was first brought to the board.
Committee members Mike Hicks, Langford Coun. Lanny Seaton, Sooke Mayor Janet Evans, and Colwood Mayor Dave Saunders voted in favour, while Metchosin Mayor John Ranns voted against the project.
“Our primary concern is to determine the public will,” he said. “Nobody can honestly say the public wants this. The first of our tests as public officials has failed.”
Ranns said the land use committee had been “seduced” by planning staff into thinking that the logistics of the project were more important than public opinion.
The whole CRD board, which does not have the right to vote, pushed the land use committee to reconsider the decision or refer it to the whole board for advice.
The board addressed Minister Ida Chong’s refusal to change the voting structure, which the province initially set up, and several councillors said they thought it was because the province didn’t want to get involved in changing policy.
Ranns expressed his “disgust” with the voting structure and the fact that any further decisions were solely in the hands of Committee A, who is largely supportive of the development.
“Folks, this is it,” he said, speaking to the whole board. “This is our last chance to have any influence on this.”
Ranns also denied Hicks’ claim that the development was the only way to protect the parcel of land from being clear-cut, and suggested it could be turned into an amenity and economic support for surrounding communities the way Pacific Rim National Park has been a tourist boom for Tofino and Ucluelet.
Hicks said in a prepared speech that if rezoning was approved, the developer would not build within 150 metres of the trail and that this was not the beginning of sprawling development between Jordan River and Port Renfew.
He said the government wasn’t interested in buying the land after it went up for sale, even after he repeatedly asked them. He said Marine Trail Holdings would keep 86 per cent of the land undeveloped and dedicate half of that acreage for parkland.
“We can preserve and create an old-growth forest, buffering the circle route highway and marine trail… or we can expose 100 per cent of these lands to the cycle of clear-cut logging,” he said.
Mayor Janet Evans also spoke in favour of the project. She said she grew up in Port Renfrew and saw the trees “logged, replanted and logged again.”
“I believe the applicant will protect the Juan de Fuca park,” she said.
Ilkay has said the resort, which would consist of 257 part-time housing units, was designed in public consultation with the residents of surrounding communities and the Pacheedaht First Nation, on whose land the development infringes. The Pacheedaht have generally supported the project, citing the jobs it will bring to their community and plans to build an artists’ venue to showcase local Aboriginal art.
Victoria Coun. Philippe Lucas said the commitment to protecting parkland didn’t change the fact that the proposed development was “way too big”, stretching over five kilometres.
“It’s like telling a cancer patient that he’s already 86 per cent fine, so don’t worry about the other 14 per cent. What size would be considered too large?”
In response, Juan de Fuca Electoral Area head of planning Bob Lapham admitted that there wasn’t much public consultation focusing specifically on what size residents thought was appropriate for the resort.
The board also voted to receive a staff report from Victoria Coun. Vic Derman, who questioned access to fire services for users of the isolated resort and the likelihood of vegetation being cut away to lower the fire risk.
“You are putting as much as 1,000 people out in a forested area without adequate fire protection,” he said. “How in God’s name can that be considered?”
Hicks said the province would continue to protect the forest and the developer would provide infrastructure to protect the buildings.
Conversation continued about the date of the public hearing. Hicks suggested it be held in August.