On December 23, 2008, while most of us were sipping rum and eggnog, or out getting the Tofurky, Judge Metzger laid down his Supreme Court Decision on six progressive land use by-laws in the Juan de Fuca Electoral Area.
It was a shocking win for Western Forest Products, and a heartbreaking loss for the Capital Regional District, environmentalists, recreation users, surfers, First Nations and coastal communities. The epicenter of the decision lies over Jordan River, but sends shock waves out over Shirley and Otter Point, as well as other rural communities throughout the province.
Personally, the news felt like a rock in the pit of my stomach. I couldn’t believe that the six bylaws passed by the CRD to protect the area from sprawling development had been quashed. Judge Metzger decided that the Juan de Fuca land use decision making body – consisting of the Mayor of Central Saanich, the Mayor of Metchosin and the previous Regional Director of the Juan de Fuca Electoral Area – was illegal, based on the fee structure of the committee.
What is the result of the the quashing of the bylaws? WFP now has all the time in the world to get their development applications approved for massive subdivisions along the wild coast. And, they get to do it under the area’s nonsensical previous zoning.
First, in 2007, WFP claimed financial ruin and received a sweetheart deal from the province to release thousands of hectares from tree farm licences in the Juan de Fuca Electoral Area. In late 2008, WFP gained a procedural victory decision from the courts, attacking the CRD in it attempt to protect these newly privatized lands from sprawling development.
Now is the time to act.
And what now? All the work and commitment of the CRD and coastal communities have shown towards preserving the Wild Coast has been dissolved by Judge Metzger’s decision. Do we bury our heads in the sand and watch while the Wild Coast is carved up like a Christmas Turkey? Although tempting, and just what WFP would like us to do, NOW IS THE TIME TO ACT.
January will be a month of regrouping. We must continue to apply pressure squarely on the province to take responsibility for the situation the ultimately created. The province has promised that when land is taken out of a Tree Farm Licence, wishes of the local government will not be ignored. The affected communities need time to finish planning documents and visions before the land is approved for any development. The province needs to slow down WFP and give communities the time and resources to complete these plans.
Also, we need to continue to support the CRD in responding to this decision. They may decide to appeal this decision. The CRD has put so much time and energy into creating and passing these bylaws, it is unlikely that they will let this decision go unchallenged.
We need to keep and even closer eye on WFP. Until now they have been slow in offering up information to the provincial Approving Officer regarding their subdivision plans. We need to make sure that this information is publicly available for scrutiny and that we continue to press the Approving Officer for a public hearing.
Lastly, the issue needs to remain fresh. We need to keep talking about it and keep it alive. If you care about the future of the wild coast, keep visiting Jordan River, keep surfing, keep hiking and keep working to save this incredible area.
Visit www.savejordanriver.com for more ways to help.