Everyone is waiting with baited breath to hear what the BC Supreme Court judge will decide on Western Forest Products (WFP) challenge of the Regional District bylaws restricting subdivision in the Juan De Fuca (JDF) Electoral Area. Coastal communities, First Nations, environmentalists,surfers, hikers and the Capital Regional District all have an interest in the Court’s decision.
WFP and members of the BC Landowners Association are challenging the decision-making structure of the CRD, and the Regional District’s progressive zoning of previous forest lands in the JDF. The hearings took place on October 15 and 16, 2008.
Many people see the CRD’s change in zoning asa necessary response to the 2007 Provincial release of forest lands from WFP’s Tree Farm Licenses. The bylaws have the potential of slowing and managing Western Forest Products aggressive subdivision applications on lands surrounding Jordan River.
The Court had indicated the decision would be made public by mid-November. Now, close to a month later, there are no results in sight. Everyday I check the Reasons for Judgment page of the B.C. Supreme Court anxious over the decision.
Currently, WFP has until April 23 to have their massive proposed subdivisions in and around Jordan River approved under the old zoning. A combination of widespread lack of support for their plans, inadequate information on watersheds and other ecological services, the economic downturn,and the time constraints are making the likelihood of WFP implementing their current proposals quite low. WFP has not, as yet, submitted the necessary reports to the approving officer in order to receive approval. The company is probably waiting for a decision before they put their resources into the necessary reports for their massive project.
This court decision will either be a huge step forward for local planning and the protection of the coast from urban sprawl, or a huge step back. If the CRD loses it will mean that WFP will have all the time in the world to get approval for their proposed subdivisions.
The irony is that the CRD Planning Department for the Juan de Fuca Electoral Area is required to offer their opinion on WFP’s subdivision applications to the Approving Officer. In fact, many of the required reports of the application go through the CRD before being signed off by the Approving Officer.
Not surprising,the CRD does not support WFP’s current subdivision applications and have been very clear about this. Unfortunately, rather than trying to work with the CRD, their zoning, and local people, WFP has challenged them every step of the way. They have chosen to bite the hand that could potentially feed them.
WFP is also forcing the CRD to use the very limitedCRD planning department resources to pay for their lawyers and court fees. This tight planning budget comes out of the Juan de Fuca taxpayer’s pockets, and the local people who are footing the bill, are becoming less and less impressed with WFP.
Also, there is a rumble of rumors that suggest that if theCRD are defeated by this case they would not let it go. After such a long battle, they would take it to the next level and appeal the decision. Again, rumor has it that local governments are often favored in the Court of Appeal.
So while we are all waiting and keeping our fingers crossed one thing is for sure, WFP is not building any bridges around Jordan River. And, if the CRD and communities get what they want, they won’t be building any subdivision roads either.
Oh, what a tangled web WFP has weaved!