Gordon O’Connor: Juan de Fuca Marine Trail threat shines light on flawed land-use system

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      Ender Ilkay’s application to build nearly 300 vacation homes next to the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail is a blessing in disguise. It’s not a blessing because it’s a good idea or a well-drafted proposal that will benefit our community. It won’t protect the environment, promote sustainability, create affordable housing, or accomplish any of our regional priorities. The proposal—and the controversy surrounding it—is a blessing because it shines a spotlight on southern Vancouver Island’s land-use decision-making system.

      Ilkay’s application to rezone seven plots of land abutting Juan de Fuca Provincial Park should have never been considered in the first place. It presents no cost-benefit analysis, minimal land concessions, and has inadequate fire protection plans and raises concerns over wildlife interactions, traffic congestion, water, and septic services that will eventually become an expensive liability for the regional government. The handful of politicians supporting it have clearly revealed they have more interest in facilitating short-term profit for one real estate speculator than long-term prosperity for our community.

      On its own, this will be valuable information during local elections in November, but it’s really only the tip of the iceberg. The bulk of the problem being revealed lies beneath the surface.

      The Capital Regional District board on southern Vancouver Island has been passing the buck for over six months on this issue, searching for an easy way to enforce its own rules against urban sprawl. Barring an enormous cry of outrage from the community and some decisive action from progressive CRD directors, Ilkay’s plan is likely to be approved in September because the policies created to prevent reckless development are next to impossible to enforce. This isn’t the first time we have seen this happen. Silver Spray in the late '90s, the Vantreight application, and the Bear Mountain fiasco are just a few examples of when the community and the regional government have been unable to prevent real estate speculators from having their way with our environment. That pattern indicates a bias in our decision-making system that consistently favours reckless development projects.

      This brings us to the base of the iceberg, the biggest part that keeps everything afloat.

      It is no accident that rules and systems evolved this way. It was not a surprise or a coincidence that the CRD has developed processes to favour a real estate speculator’s interests above those of the community. These rules were developed in an economic system that functions on perpetual growth on a finite resource base and one of the key elements in economic expansion is the inflation of land prices. Simply put, our economy is enabled by reckless development projects and we have developed a system of rules that allow elite landowners the freedom to feed this cycle by bulldozing our natural areas.

      If no one tried to take advantage of this situation then we would never have a reason to look at it closely, so, in a way, we all owe Ender Ilkay and the politicians who support him a debt of gratitude. A simple handshake will do, but then we have to get on with the job of breaking this disastrous cycle.

      The CRD board does have the authority to defeat Ilkay’s proposal. The regional growth strategy explicitly prohibits reckless development proposals and the CRD board could make history next month by closing the loopholes in this policy and voting against his application. It would be much easier for them to pass the buck and allow Ilkay to squeak through a loophole though.

      Politicians aren’t known for taking chances before an election, so we need to make it clear that this action would be supported by our community. On September 6 and 7, there will be a public hearing on the Juan de Fuca proposal and every single person who cares about the future of our region needs to be there and be heard.

      Gordon O’Connor is the Vancouver Island campaigner for the Dogwood Initiative.




      Aug 16, 2011 at 4:07pm

      We always manage to protest these backward land use issues, so why can't more of us also put our best foot forward and run in the upcoming Municipal elections in November and turn these developers down. We need good people in Gov't too!

      Zachary Doeding

      Aug 18, 2011 at 12:33pm

      Excerpts of letters from the Pacheedaht First Nation to Ida Chong:

      “We are continually asked to join the environmentalists’ organizations; while we feel that these individuals have a purpose, they do not represent First Nations. They have their own agenda, which is usually motivated by trying to secure funding. These organizations have not consulted Pacheedaht about the Juan de Fuca Lands and/or the Jordan River Lands; their interests cannot come before First Nations rights and titles.”

      and the CRD:

      “This letter is intended to provide the CRD and our Area Director, Mike Hicks, with an update on the Pacheedaht First Nations support for the Marine Trail Resort development.
      On March 30th approximately 70% of our voting membership met with our Chief and Council and Mr. Ilkay to discuss this proposal. The meeting started with an over view and historical summary of the development and our relationship with Mr. Ilkay. Community members asked many questions and gained a clear picture of the development. The meeting was very positive and certainly confirmed that the majority of the members fully support our Councils decision to support this development.

      The Pacheedaht First Nation wants the CRD to understand that the lands in question are clearly within the Traditional Territory of the Pacheedaht First Nation...

      The Pacheedaht First Nation’s wood mill is proving to be very successful; we intend on developing a partnership with Mr. Ilkay for our milled wood to be used throughout this development and employ our members in various jobs throughout the development stages and long term employment opportunities once each stage of the development is complete.

      As the CRD area director for this region we direct Mr. Mike Hicks to vote in favor of this development and relay our message of positive support for the proposal; and continue to work with the Pacheedaht First Nation to provide employment of our members and economic development opportunities for our region.”

      Gordon O’Conner is a paid activist who lives in the quichey James Bay neighborhood of Victoria.

      The Pacheedaht First Nation in Port Renfrew is one the poorest communities in B.C. with a growth strategy of their own for their traditional territories.

      Martin Dunphy

      Aug 18, 2011 at 3:31pm

      Zachary Doeding (above) is a representative of the Sooke-based Association of B.C. Landowners.

      Rosemary Jorna

      Aug 27, 2011 at 9:03pm

      The Association of BC Landowners is a special interest group their web site says it all http://bclandowner.org

      Mr. Ilkay understood the RGS and Resource Lands Zoning

      Excerpt from the Times Colonist of October 30 2008
      Mr. Ilkay said "he is well aware of the restrictions on the Juan de Fuca parcels and has no intention of seeking rezoning. "We fully understand that it is very clear and very limiting ," he said. Under the current rules, because there are seven individual properties , it would be possible to build seven homes."

      Excerpt of a letter from Regional Director Hicks to his fellow Capital Regional District Directors March 2011
      "some have expressed concern that this development would be one of many and result in sprawl. The fact is all lands waterfront lands west of Mr. Ilkay's lands are zoned strictly for resource extraction and any change in use would be contrary to the RGS and subject to a vote by the whole CRD Board'

      Mr. Iikay's lands are in that current zoning so Mr. Hicks himself acknowleged that this re zoning is an Regional Growth Strategy (RGS) issue requiring a vote by the whole CRD Board.

      Rosemary Jorna resident Juan de Fuca Electoral Area ( Otter Point)

      zachary doeding

      Sep 2, 2011 at 11:25am

      The Association of B.C. Land Owners is a grass roots organization whose "special interest" is preserving Rural zoning for the more than 400 families who own small acreages in the Juan De Fuca Electoral area. This zoning allows rural families to build houses for their children and allows common ownership through strata title, with an average density of one house per hectare (or 4 houses on 10 acres).

      For the last 15 years these families have been subjected to repeated attempts by the CRD to down-zone their properties to one house per ten acres. The latest down-zoning bylaw was labeled "gerrymandering"(vote-rigging) and thrown out by the Supreme Court. It was supported by Ms. Jorna and her "special interest' group, the Otter Point and Shirley Rate Payers Association.

      But what does that have to do with my support of the Pacheedaht First Nation, the truly "senior government" of the Juan De Fuca to finally carry the most weight in a decision in their traditional territories.