Metchosinites have had their say and a land swap involving Langford and Beecher Bay First Nation will go forward pending a final round of approvals.
In the end, 1,098 of the 1,447 ballots cast were in favour of the swap, meaning an overwhelming 75.9 per cent of voters have given the district the green light to enter final negotiations with their neighbours on what many are calling a historic deal for relations with First Nations.
“We’re obviously happy,” said Mayor John Ranns. “I’m proud of this community.”
Since the agreement was first announced in September, council meetings have been full of discussion on the deal that will ultimately see Metchosin’s northern boundary with Langford shrink and preserve three parcels of treaty lands within the district that were candidates for development by Beecher Bay.
Ranns has repeatedly said that Metchosin can’t remain a rural community without the deal, and that having Beecher Bay develop parcels of land within their boundaries would force the District to improve surrounding infrastructure by raising taxes.
On Saturday night, Ranns pointed to the Jan. 16 town hall that included members of Beecher Bay council as an important event that helped clear up much of the misinformation that had spread throughout the process.
“It was one of the most amazing meetings I’ve been at,” he said. “(Beecher Bay Chief) Russ (Chipps) was so forth right. He told it like it was. I think people really appreciated that.”
Residents closest to the Langford border provided the strongest voice in opposition, with many fearing the prospect of having a large residential development and a business park nearby.
In response Ranns negotiated an increased buffer from the proposed residential development, but a minority remained unconvinced.
Final negotiations will now take place between all three parties. The complicated deal has many moving parts, but Ranns expressed his confidence that the three municipalities could move past any hurdles that might arise.
“It’s been a good process,” he noted.
The swap will also need approval from the province.
Earlier this month, Ranns told the Capital Regional District board that he expects to get provincial approval because of the plan’s resolution of treaty negotiations, and the tone of his conversations with MLA Peter Fassbender, Minister of Community, Sport and Cultural Development.The goal for all parties is to have the deal passed prior to the provincial election this spring.