Mike Hicks opened a public information meeting on March 3 by stating they were there to give the “real facts as opposed to what is being written by various groups.”
Hicks, the area director for the Juan de Fuca Electoral Area, was chairing the meeting convened to discuss the resort development being proposed by Ender Ilkay close to the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail.
In opening Hicks said, “the spokesman for Marine Trail Holdings has new information and our staff has new information.”
He explained the process of approving or rejecting the rezoning application which would see 257 cabins with various auxiliary buildings built on seven properties totaling 263 hectares in the Rural Resource Lands adjacent to the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail and park.
“After this meeting the Land Use Committee will meet and send the proposal to the CRD Board with our recommendations. It will be discussed and voting block A will vote on whether it goes to a Public Hearing or not,” said Hicks.
Bob Lapham, General Manager, CRD Planning and Protective Services, spoke about the history of the property in question. He said the property is currently zoned as resource lands and said, “let me be clear on this, it (current zoning) allows for resource extraction.”
Which means logging and gravel extraction. The current zoning means there are no setbacks for resource extraction with a 15 metre setback for homes and three metres for outbuildings.
He said the Minister of Parks, Murray Coell stated that the province would not purchase the lands from Ilkay and the CRD is tapped after the purchase of the Western Forest Products lands.
“Every fact is important to making a decision,” said Lapham.
The rezoning application by Ilkay was submitted in 2009 on the private land in question. A revised zoning application was referred out by the JDF LUC and the first of three public information meetings was held in October, 2010.
Some comments at the March 3 meeting were that Ilkay purchased the land illegally.
“What a stupid thing to say,” said Ilkay.
He went on to say that two years ago he proposed a development at Jordan River with included access to the surfing beach and public trails, and he was basically shut down. There were people in the audience at the March 3 meeting who said development should be confined to Port Renfrew and Jordan River.
“Those same people shut it down,” said Ilkay.
At the meeting Ilkay said that during this whole process he was threatened through correspondence and the police were subsequently involved.
“There is a lot of misinformation out there,” he said. “The idea was to create a very environmentally sensitive resort that fits within the lands, a draw for people passionate about nature and who enjoy the wild West Coast.”
Of the 582 acres, Ilkay will donate 245 acres to BC Parks to improve buffers. The proposal also includes substantial donations for park and vast amounts of space protected from further development.
Ilkay said the actual footprint of the development is three per cent of the lands.
Attendees at the meeting had their turn to speak and much of the rhetoric was similar to what had been said at the previous information meeting in February.
Issues of: a moratorium on lands in the Pacheedaht First Nation until treaties are settled; the Auditor General’s report on the sale of former TFL lands; greenhouse gases and the need for growth in the regional growth centres.
In regard to the calls for a moratorium by Pacheedaht members on First Nations territory, Hicks said, “From my point of view, I take my direction from the duly elected chief and council. I will go with their last official letter. They are working with Mr. Ilkay and support the development.”
A local Sooke resident spoke of the need for local jobs, sustainability, greater trail access and the enhanced security with “eyes and ears” on the trail.
Others stated it was the wrong development in the wrong place.
Jan Peterson, the economic consultant on Ilkay’s team, said that perhaps an environmental group should buy the property if they want it left alone.
The economic benefits were questioned, particularly the number of jobs that would be created at the resort.
Ilkay said not all the jobs created would be at the resort, some would be off-shoot jobs in the real estate industry. The estimated number of full time jobs would be approx. 95, not including any construction jobs, and these would not be classed as the lower paying jobs, but in the $40,000/year range.
Questions of visibility were answered by Ilkay who said none of the cabins would be visible from the road or the trail. He stated that at full build out and 90 per cent occupancy, it would result in a 15-18 per cent increase in trail use. The cabins would not be occupied year round and would go into a rental pool when the owners were not there. The cabins would be approx. 900 sq. feet maximum and no more than one storey.
In response to a statement about tourism sprawl, Ilkay said the entire development was phased over a time frame of 15-20 years and if the first phase didn’t sell out, there was little likelihood that the remainder of the cabins would be built any time soon.
Calls for more public consultation and a public information meeting in Victoria was met with a “no” from Director Hicks.
When someone said that Ilkay bought the lands illegally, he responded by saying, “If you buy ahouse from a couple who is divorced, are you responsible for the divorce?”
Some accused the CRD staff members of “selling” the development with their opening comments. Again, staff reiterated that they were following the process.
One of the most vocal groups lobbying to halt any development in the Juan de Fuca Electoral Area, the Dogwood Initiative, had spokesperson Gordon O’Connor, accuse Mike Hicks of lobbying for the development behind closed doors. Hicks did not comment.
One comment by a Sooke resident, which hadn’t been stated before was that with our aging population wanted a different kind of recreation with more comforts, as opposed to day hiking or tenting.
As to further developments in the Juan de Fuca, Hicks stated that these lands were the only ones that could be developed since the new Official Community Plan was adopted.
“Everyone in the Juan de Fuca and Canada has a right to come forward with a proposal,” said Hicks.
The details of the development proposal and the changes made to the original application are available on the JDF website.