Critics demand public consultation on Juan de Fuca resort
"This is no way to run a democratic process"
"We are going to protest"
Right: Juan de Fuca director Mike Hicks
Days before the first vote on a controversial resort planned for properties adjoining Juan de Fuca park, Vancouver Island environmentalists are crying foul.
"We are going to protest," warned Zoe Blunt, director of the Forest Action Network.
Blunt points out that crucial documents detailing the development plan for 265-plus vacation homes are still not available for public review. A public hearing is scheduled, but there is no further public consultation. The proposed Marine Trail resort would include 2 recreation centres, retail businesses, restaurants, a helipad, septic systems, and paved roads and affecting a 17-km stretch of the popular hiking trail. The developer is Ender Ilkay, a West Vancouver real-estate baron.
The Phased Development Agreement and other documents will become part of the resort bylaw if adopted. The agreements are supposed to outline how emergency services will be provided, what land will be dedicated as parkland, where drinking water will come from, and buffer zones to protect Juan de Fuca Marine Trail Park, among other issues.
"These agreements are the most important part of the bylaw, but we're not being allowed to see them," Blunt charged.
June Klassen of the Juan de Fuca planning committee said the documents will be available on the CRD website at some point, and staff are "working on it."
Blunt asked. "How can we expect the board to make an informed decision, when there's no information until just before the vote?"
The CRD's initial vote on the resort plan is expected Wednesday (June 15). If the proposed bylaw passes first and second reading, it will go to a public hearing a few weeks later. The hearing will likely be held in Sooke.
But one public hearing won't satisfy the critics. Blunt said over 1200 people have signed up to participate. "I don't know where they're going to find a room big enough to hold everyone," she said.
"This development concerns everyone in the region," Blunt said. "Real consultation means giving people from Port Renfrew, Jordan River, and Victoria a chance to comment and ask questions."
The public hearing will be the last opportunity for citizens to comment, Blunt said. The public will not have a chance to ask questions. At the end of the hearing, comment will be closed and the resort bylaw will return to the CRD for third reading and adoption.
"The local Land Use Committee had the opportunity to hold another public information session, but [Juan de Fuca director] Mike Hicks vetoed it," Blunt noted. "Hicks told us the committee had already consulted with the developer and staff and that's enough. There seems to be absolutely no interest in consulting with the public he claims to represent."
"How can Hicks make a decision like that without even seeing the bylaw?" Blunt asked. "He's a businessman – would he sign a twenty-year contract without reading it?"
Blunt said she wants answers about the process. "Why would Hicks refuse to hold a public information session when he knows thousands of people – including most of the residents of Juan de Fuca – have serious concerns about the resort? Because it's 'uncomfortable' for him? That's no way to run a democratic process."
Many community groups have cited serious concerns about safety, sprawl, damage to the park, and increased demand for services. The list includes the Shirley Volunteer Fire Department, the Jordan River Community Association, BC Parks, and the Otter Point-Shirley Residents and Ratepayers Association, which represents 400 local residents.
Contact: Zoe Blunt 250-813-3569