I am a resident of Willis Point, one of the six communities within the Juan de Fuca Electoral Area. I served as the Willis Point representative on the Juan de Fuca Electoral Area Land Use Committee from its inception until 2008.
I do not agree with the argument that the entire Capital Regional District Board must vote on the Marine Trail Holdings development proposal. This change to the current structure for land use matters in the Juan de Fuca Electoral Area would effectively usurp local responsibility for land use planning, contrary to a fundamental principle of modern democracy.
More than 10 years ago, Willis Point and other Electoral Area communities sought greater control over local land use matters, and the Capital Regional District Board responded positively, first by establishing locally elected Advisory Planning Commissions in each community, then by creating the Electoral Area Land Use Committee composed of locally elected representatives from each community, as well as the directly elected Electoral Area Director. These bodies make recommendations; Voting Blocks A and B of the Board make the actual decisions.
No doubt the then recent controversy over the Silver Spray development influenced the board’s decision, but regardless of motivation, this structure of locally elected community representatives being responsible for local land use matters is an innovative, and by all accounts effective, approach. The fact the courts struck down certain aspects of this structure is not relevant to this matter. The courts found no issue with the concept of community based and elected representatives, only with the board’s internal voting procedures used to formally approve Land Use Committee recommendations.
The argument that the Marine Trail Holdings development is adjacent to the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail Park and that only the Board can respond to the “public interest” is unconvincing.
Put simply, there is no evidence that the existing decision making structure would fail to give the proposal full, fair and objective analysis, including consideration of both local views and broader public interest. Those advancing this argument seem concerned that the existing structure may reach a decision on the proposal that is contrary to their own views. Disagreement with an elected body’s potential decision is certainly not a reason to abandon fundamental democratic principles and usurp that body’s authority.
I strongly urge the Capital Regional District Board to respect local authority over land use planning, and to reject any change in the decision making structures regarding land use matters in the Juan de Fuca Electoral Area.