Considering that Metchosin Mayor John Ranns called it the “biggest thing we’ve ever done,” it’s only fitting that residents will have a chance to vote on the municipality’s proposed land swap involving Langford and Beecher Bay First Nation.
“Metchosin residents have always had a say in important issues for the community and this is no exception,” Ranns said in a statement issued Wednesday.
The referendum will take place in January and is the result of a decision made at a special council meeting held last week. That came after the District hosted a well-attended open house at which residents voiced their opinions on the landmark deal.
That level of civic engagement was encouraging for Coun. Andy MacKinnon, who believes the nature of the deal is what has so many residents engaged. “It’s an important issue and it will effect everybody in Metchosin. I’m very pleased we had that many people show up,” he said.
Many spoke in favour of the move, which would entail boundary changes and an expansion of dedicated parkland.
Others were in favour, but suggested alterations to specific portions of the proposed deal, MacKinnon said.
“(Some) people thought the deal could be done with some different border adjustments, or some different arrangements in place with (Langford and Beecher Bay First Nation),” he said.
Other residents – many of whom live near what would be the District’s new boundary with Langford – were adamantly against the move altogether.
“If you had a couple of hundred acres of Metchosin in between you and Langford, and all of a sudden a big chunk of that was going to be Langford, and part of it developed as a business park, obviously that’s going to change everything from the neighbourhood to property values,” MacKinnon said.
Under the proposal, 250 acres of Treaty lands within Metchosin will be preserved as green space. In return, Metchosin will shrink its northern boundary with Langford by 380 acres, allowing the development of a business park.
Beecher Bay will receive a share of development land in the swap, including a third of the business park, which is touted to create as many as 4,000 permanent jobs.
Metchosin would also retain a 92-acre parkland buffer to protect Metchosin Creek and provide a transition from Langford’s border to Metchosin’s rural land uses.
No residents would see their homes switch municipalities under the agreement, but it would bring the Langford boundary much closer for residents on Neild Road, for example.
“Obviously people who live in that neighbourhood are going to have concerns about that,” MacKinnon said.
He recognizes the positive and negative aspects of the deal, but is supportive of the agreement on a whole. “It will help secure our green spaces … I also think that it’s a good thing for our neighbours in Langford and, in particular, Beecher Bay, for employment and revenue opportunities.
“I think we feel, as a council, that Metchosin won’t really prosper unless Beecher Bay is prospering as well.”
And while many residents might prefer things to stay as they are, MacKinnon doesn’t see that as a realistic option.
That’s because three parcels of Crown Land that would be within Metchosin borders should the agreement pass are being offered to the Band as part of a treaty with the province.
“Things are going to change one way or another. Status quo isn’t really an option anymore and I think that’s something everybody has to consider when they’re having their say on this issue,” MacKinnon said.