Western Forest Products threatens to build acreages if Ida Chong approves new rules

Before I, and the rest of us at Dogwood, head off to enjoy a weekend in the sun, I thought I would take a minute to comment on a recent development (i.e. reported on in today’s Times Colonist) in the whole Jordan River / Western Forest Products / Tree Farm Deletion issue.

Rundown on the Situation

    In January, 2007 Minister of Forests Rich Coleman bucked public sentiment and allowed Western Forest Products (WFP) to remove a bunch of land from their ‘Tree Farm Licences’ [the picture below shows the land that was deleted on Southern Vancouver Island]. For a bunch of different reasons this shouldn’t have happened, but it allowed WFP to put chunks of choice real estate between Sooke and Port Renfrew up for sale.

    Fall 2007 – WFP announced the conditional sale of 2,500 Hectares of some of the affected land to a Vancouver-based developer. The sale was rumored to be worth around $50 million. Lots of people were upset, because it meant that a huge development could spring up without anybody being asked if that was OK with them.

    Of those upset were planners with the Capital Regional District (municipal government) because the WFP sale did a bit of a run-around local and regional planning processes. In response the CRD, with public input, wrote new development rules so that no big developments could spring up on the land WFP was trying to sell.

    This made WFP mad, because they were in the middle of trying to ‘seal the deal’ with the developer, and the CRD’s new rules would make the land less valuable.

    But the new development rules still need to be approved by Ida Chong – she’s the provincial Minister for Community Services – and she hasn’t done that yet.

    So WFP would really like Ida Chong not to approve the new rules.

    Today news broke that WFP applied to subdivide the land themselves under current rules (since the developer obviously wouldn’t want to ‘seal the deal’ until Ida Chong makes a decision).

WFP is clearly, in my view, doing this to provide a reason for Ida Chong not approve the new rules. They’re angry because if she does, they won’t be able to sell the land for as much money.

The implicit threat is: ‘if you approve these rules, we’ll just go ahead and subdivide it ourselves; how we like, not how the developer would like (e.g. parks and trails, and birds singing, and fountains).

Basically it seems that WFP is trying to threaten a situation where the new rules wouldn’t be in the public interest. But that situation is only credible if there is no way to stop WFP from subdividing the land as they say they will if their interests aren’t accomodated. But there is a way to stop them:

(1)    The Transportation Approval Officer in the Ministry of Transportation can.

(2)    The CRD is probably able to (but I don’t know that for a fact yet).

So nice try WFP – but Ida Chong and the Transportation Ministry are too clever and committed to their constituent’s concerns and the broader public interest…right?

We’ll see.

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