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. They were there to ensure things didn’t get out of hand. As the theatre filled, the doors were closed for a time as it filled to capacity.
As in previous meetings on this issue, the crowd didn’t fail to acknowledge those who spoke out against the proposed development by hooting, clapping and standing up.
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 September 6 meeting, more than 40 people were signed up to speak. Each was given five minutes to express their viewpoint.
“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 said he surveyed the 300 members and received 50 responses, 47 vs. three who wished Campbell to speak to the CRD in regard to consideration of the bylaws amendments.
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.
Many other voices were heard decrying the scale of the development, the Regional Growth Strategy, the lack of consultation with the entire Capital Regional District and the possible destruction of the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail and wildlife corridors.
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.'”
Others challenged the legitimacy of Land Use Committee A and the need to bring this application before the entire CRD Board. Some wanted a moratorium.
“Committee A should be subservient to the entire CRD Board,” said one speaker.
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.
Their comments were met with almost no response.
The speakers continued to extol the virtues of the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail and park and the need for preservation for future generations.
Gordon O’Connor, from the Dogwood Initiative, said he didn’t think this would be the last rezoning application in the Juan de Fuca.
“Every land use decision sets a precedent,” he stated.
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.
Even the Raging Grannies came to the microphone and sang, lending a little humour to the meeting.
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.
The five members of the Land Use Committee A (representatives from Metchosin, Langford, Colwood, Sooke and JDF area director Mike Hicks) will make a decision on the rezoning at the CRD meeting on Sept. 14.