The Capital Regional District is looking at changing how it votes on zoning rural resource lands in the wake of a proposed cabin development near the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail.
At a closed meeting on March 23, the CRD’s planning, transportation and protection services committee passed a motion asking for a report on how to give the entire CRD board the right to vote on rural rezoning.
This would effectively strip the responsibility from the existing committee, made up of the mayors from Sooke, Metchosin, Langford and Colwood and the JDF electoral area director.
Metchosin Mayor John Ranns presented the motion at the meeting as a “preemptive approach” to bring what he says is a critical regional issue before the CRD board.
“If the (CRD) board rules (the rezoning) isn’t consistent with the regional growth strategy then that overrules the community,” Ranns said. “The land is clearly regionally significant.”
The motion blind-sided and infuriated JDF electoral area director Mike Hicks, who said he felt betrayed by his fellow CRD directors.
“I’m really hurt — no question,” said Hicks the day after the meeting. “It’s a total slam on the governance of the JDF.”
The issue centres on Ender Ilkay’s Marine Trail Holdings resort development, which envisions building 257 cabins on his private land, which skirts the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail.
The proposal includes giving 245 acres to B.C. Parks and to develop about three per cent of the property. The land is currently zoned for resource extraction, such as forestry or gravel mines, which has no setback requirement from adjacent public lands.
Hicks said the development proposal fits within the CRD’s regional growth strategy, a document which guides the build out of urban density in the region. If the issue of rezoning Ilkay’s development was against the RGS, Hicks said, then the whole board would get to vote.
“I take this as a total body slam, almost like a vote of non-confidence,” said Hicks. “I see them as political bullies, and I’m not going to take it. It’s total skullduggery, there’s so much at stake.”
Ranns said the JDF electoral doesn’t have a regional context statement within the RGS, and so doesn’t clearly define land planning and land use policies in that area.
Ranns said he wants to ensure the JDF electoral area is accountable to the CRD, as are other municipalities.
“I am presuming Mike sees this as I am taking away his authority,” Ranns said. “As municipalities we take care of our own local land usage, but it has to be consistent with the regional growth strategy.
“No one wants to intervene with Mike’s issues of local significance. But these are issues of regional significance.”
To change the land-use voting structure, the CRD would see assent from the Minister of Community, Sports and Cultural Development.
In 2008, a “$100-buy-a-vote” three-person voting structure for JDF lands was taken to court, deemed illegal and struck down. The current system where four neighbouring communities near the JDF electoral area get to vote on land use issues was readopted.
To make any changes now would require a provincial order in council.
Hicks suspects some CRD board members are worried the current committee’s vote might go differently than what they want.
The proposed development has galvanized opposition from environmentalists across the region, particularly students at the University of Victoria.
“I trust Minister Ida Chong and the province will ultimately support the voting structure we have,” Hicks said. “The sad part of the process is that only one team has been on the field and the JDF team hasn’t taken to the field yet.”
The bottom line, Hicks said, is that it’s “a shock and a real shame to the people of Juan de Fuca, not just me.”
Hicks hopes it will not ruin his relationship with the other CRD directors.
“I’m not going to compromise my job as director of Juan de Fuca, the process and any applicant who comes before me.”
––with files from Pirjo Raits