The 2003 Regional Growth Strategy allows the extension of piped city water in the Capital Regional District’s 13 municipalities, but not the Juan de Fuca Electoral Area.
After years of input, the CRD has developed the 2016 RGS to update and replace the 2003 version. In order for the 2016 RGS to be adopted, all the municipalities must agree.
The Juan de Fuca Electoral Area does not receive a vote and must abide by the municipalities’ decision.
The new 2016 RGS states that piped water may be considered in the JDF if the local governments ( East Sooke, Otter Point, Shirley, Port Renfrew) define areas of service in their Official Community Plan (OCP). It states clearly that if water is considered for an extension, 100 per cent of the cost is the responsibility of the applicant and not the CRD.
The completed draft 2016 RGS was sent to the 13 municipalities for their unanimous approval. Four municipalities, North Saanich, Saanich, View Royal and the Highlands rejected the RGS on the basis they did not want the Juan de Fuca electoral area’s residents receiving piped water. They reasoned that the extension of water would result in urban sprawl.
I have argued for many years that water is a God given right and if we can possibly connect our residents at no cost to the taxpayers, it is our duty to do so.
I have also argued that OCPs and zoning bylaws control density, and water is not a factor in urban sprawl. Metchosin proves this theory as they allow all their residents access to water and have the lowest rate of growth or urban sprawl in the CRD.
Because the municipalities cannot agree, the CRD has initiated a mediation process in an attempt to reach an agreement.
The process will take six months and as I discovered at the last CRD Board meeting, the Juan de Fuca was totally excluded from the process.
I made a motion and the CRD board considered my request for a one-hour meeting with the mediator to submit the Juan de Fuca views and concerns.
Rather than this, the board graciously offered for me to be considered for the CRD representative in the mediation process. My motion was withdrawn, two other directors besides myself were nominated for the position and low and behold, Victoria director Ben Isitt and Oak Bay director Nils Jenson were elected instead of me.
Thankfully, Central Saanich director Ryan Winsor and Sooke Mayor Maja Tait made a motion which was approved to request my one-hour meeting with the mediator.
I think this mediation process will fail. I am confident that our tremendous neighbors of Sooke, Metchosin, Langford and Colwood will never waver and we will finally arrive at binding arbitration.
The provincial government will get involved, appoint a profession, non-biased arbitrator who will consider all the facts and arguments and make a fair ruling whether to give the JDF water or to deny the JDF residents the same right as municipalities.
I wish to sincerely thank Mayor Maja Tait, Coun. Rick Kasper and the Sooke councillors for their support and getting us this far. This is the most important issue the Juan de Fuca will ever face. It is not just about water, but the relevance of our citizen’s groups, our OCP and the right to semi-govern ourselves.
My team is ready, our argument is sound and I am confident that we will ultimately win.
Viva la Juan de Fuca!
Mike Hicks is the CRD electoral area director for Juan de Fuca.