The Cheanuh campground, owned by the Beecher Bay First Nations (also referred to as Scia’new), has announced they are going full steam ahead with converting their campground into a town resort. As stated in their press release, “The Scianew First Nation welcomes its partner, the Trust for Sustainable Development in moving forward with the Spirit Bay sustainable resort town development on its Beecher Bay lands 30 minutes from Victoria, BC.”
“September 2 we’ll start cleaning, and then we will be out here marking lots and getting ready, and we’ll be registering people who have an interest in buying a home and living out here or working out here,” said David Butterfield, the developer and owner of TSD.
The sales will not be for permanent ownership, but for a 99-year lease.
This complies with an election held by the band to modify their land agreement. The vote for the Beecher Bay Land Code Amendment took place on July 10. Of 179 eligible names, 90 band members turned out to vote. Seventy voted in favour of amending the Land Code allowing for the lands to be leased for up to 99 years.
Although Butterfield is not directly involved with the campers, he is aware of their resistance to moving within a short timeline.
“I did manage to meet with the former head of the association today, and he was very supportive and pleasant, I think, you know with the extension that was given,” commented Butterfield. “Also that with my experience, this is a very compassionate group of people (referring to the Scia’new band). They already had made plans to make exceptions for people and so it was a little bit, maybe, break down in communications there that was unfortunate. I think there are number of people who have gotten extensions. I think it’s pretty much resolved. There may be some exceptions, but, yeah.”
Aaron Reith, the economic development officer for the band, said, “There has been folks that have asked for an extension, if they’re not in the phase one area and they are in good standing with the band and signed the release form that says that they will take their stuff with them and that they will leave on that date, all the folks that have asked for extension have been granted extensions by council.”
Reith acknowledges there are still some campers who are “threatening a court injunction, which is unfortunate.” He says as this is First Nations land, the campers really “don’t have a leg to stand on.” The council has provided a relocation expert, and the original agreement with the campers was always for 30-day notice.
“The band has acted in good faith.”
A letter from L. John Alexander, the lawyer representing the campers, dated on August 12, says that official notice has not yet been received.
“Our clients say that, under written campsite agreements with Cheanuh Marina they are entitled to 30 days written notice prior to the first of the month in which a termination of the agreement is sought. As of August 1, 2013, no such notice has been properly delivered to most of the residents. The result,” the letter goes on to state, “ is that the Beecher Bay Band is not in a lawful position to demand vacant possession of the ‘campsites’ on August 31, 2013.”
The clean-up scheduled to begin on September 2, according to Butterfield, is to make the area more accessible for housing, including road improvement, paving, broom bashing and clearing up the many ad-hoc septic tanks that have been installed in the campground over the years said Butterfield. Servicing is still a few months away.
Addressing his vision for an eco-friendly village, Butterfield said “We’ve built a couple of benchmark developments for North America in terms of sustainability. One in Tucson Arizona, it’s Civano, one that unfortunately got caught in a crunch in 2007, but up until 2007 was very successful community down in Loreto Bay. So we have a track record in this regard, Shoal Point was one of the leading projects in Canada in terms of energy efficiency.”
When asked about his involvement in Bamberton (an ambitious plan for a self-contained community that never got off the ground), Butterfield said Bamberton was where he had “the start of the dream of sustainability, the start of my understanding of sustainability, thanks to a number of environmental activists who I’ve always, since that day, had high regard for.”
The 2007 project that Butterfield references in Loreto Bay that according to a recent Forbes.com article was a $3 billion project, backed by funding from Citigroup Property Investors, that went sideways as the result of the 2008 economic crisis.
In selecting Butterfield for the project, Reith said “there’s a due-diligence process involved with any kind of undertaking, and he has scored very high on that. All the consultants that we had, they said he is the best at doing this. Mexico, we understand. I mean that was right at the height when that went sour, the major funder, Citibank, they were pulling their, they were calling their mortgages in around the world. That’s when we had the global economic crisis.” Bamberton, Reith said, they understand had “a lot to do with politics and the political will.”
The more recent successful development of Shoal Point in Victoria, said Reith, is a “stellar example” of what Butterfield is capable of. “They’ve got a really good team of experts behind them. We were aware of some of the issues but we negotiated very hard in the beginning so that all of the upfront costs were born on him.”
Butterfield has already invested $1 million into the project, out of his own pocket. Beecher Bay will get paid the value of the land, and they retain majority ownership of the project with a 51/49 per cent ownership split with TSD. The project risks are protected through general partnerships.
As far as the project providing opportunity for band members, Reith said they will be given first right of refusal for any jobs that become available, and “there will be a skills training program put into place to assist the membership.”
As shown in the press release distributed by TSD, the two votes required to move ahead on this both project both indicated a large majority of the band in favour of the development.
“The Band voted July 10, 2013 to change its Land Code to allow for 99-year leases on its property, and confirmed its confidence in the partnership with Trust for Sustainable Development at a further vote, held August 16, 2013.” Reith confirmed the second vote was met with 77 per cent of the band membership in support of the development.
One of the biggest success stories of this project is the unification of the Chipps and the Charles families, who have often divided the community. “That has probably been the biggest success story is when a community is united they can move forward very quickly and very easy… Having both families say that this is good for our communities, this is what we need to provide for our children in the future, and let’s go ahead with it.”