Full house

A packed SJ Willis auditorium that had the same morbid tone of the Mega Yacht Marina hearings last year met tonight to discuss the hilarious and staggering ramifications of what the BC Liberals have completely mismanaged. I'm naming the political party, because the fault of this really rests completely on so many of their agents' shoulders - if you don't believe me, there's a much better written review of this stinky public policy disaster by John Doyle, BC's own Auditor General located here and here. What happened in this situation gives us no legal recourse, a very delicate finance and resource management situation between all of the stakeholders and a possible fallout that could put treaty negotiations with the First Nations people in the Sooke and Jordan River back many years. Oh and we have just under 5 days to do anything about it.

Jordan river parcels

What the auditor saw coming in 2008 is now upon us, and please read that stuff it's incredibly written. Western Forest Products is in the process of selling underutilized land assets to recapture the capital it needs to stay profitable. Fair enough, business is rough right now, we're emerging from a pretty heavy recession and some ongoing softwood levies from the USA. On the outside, this isn't a big problem, all of that rural land is packaged for 300 acre lots with only single dwellings and guest houses per plot to encourage industry. The panel tonight, however, showed that this is prime real estate land and looking at the community plans of incorporated Sooke and the plans of the CRD for the unincoporated areas of Jordan River and Shirley, the land may have been strategically selected to smooth rezoning opportunities.

Up for grabs

A good example of what's putting people on edge and one of the reasons this meeting was held with such urgency is big real estate merchants' language Exhibit A and Exhibit B

Undoubtedly the jewel of the South Island Portfolio, the Jordan River Group includes sixteen titles ranging in size from approximately 4 to 722 acres. Encompassing over 2,400 acres in total, the Jordan River Group is situated around the Jordan River town site, and provides an incredible opportunity for a wide variety of uses in a region where there has historically been an extremely limited supply of real estate ... The Jordan River Group is situated in the Juan de Fuca Electoral Area and is mostly within the Shirley/Jordan River OCP area.

Large estate lots;
Considerable merchantable timber; and
Rare Juan De Fuca beach front.

Old home

Some of the points made tonight were pretty straightforward. The coastal communities are not ready to grow at any kind of speed, the tax burden and quality of life challenges stemming from the watersheds emergency services and governance is a major roadblock to development. The community also relies on the forest industry to help buoy up their other expenses, so there's a real incentive not to poke the bear. The First Nations are trying to tie up a fairly lengthy treaty negotiation in the region and really want a solid, long term environmental strategy and cleanup in their traditional territories. If that means they need to own land instead of trusting good-faith relationships with surrounding governments, they seem driven to do it. People from the Island and eco-tourists want a reason to visit the area and not just have a sprawl like what happened in the ukee-tofino corridor.

With no compensation gained from the government and WFP interactions, the onus has been put on the public to solve this one and either buy out the land or get out of the way. One promising avenue may be a model forest plan, which the University of British Columbia proposes in conjunction with other strategic partners, including the CRD. This would give the land to a publicly steered organization, but the plan needs to be hydrated. Some of the other actions resembled the resolution sought for Clayoquot sound, which involved a transition to a UN biosphere or historical site, but with so much second growth forest, and WFP recently logging the areas, it may be a difficult sell. If the idea of excessive fallout isn't cool with you, I'd say at least do the democratic process and let everyone responsible for the blunder hear your voice and where your future vote is headed.

Lots More Information at the Dogwood Intiative site