Public deserves a say in land development

When I spoke to CRD Chair Geoff Young a few weeks ago, he very eloquently outlined the need for our Juan De Fuca issues to be exorcised in the open, preferably including the public along the way.

When I spoke to CRD Chair Geoff Young a few weeks ago, he very eloquently outlined the need for our Juan De Fuca issues to be exorcised in the open, preferably including the public along the way.

He stressed that the debate over what is a ‘local’ and what is a ‘regional’ issue should be had outside of courtroom walls.

Well, so much for that.

Last week, the Capital Regional District finished the meeting it started a month ago. Voting Block A — composed of directors from the JDF and surrounding areas — voted to move right along with everyone’s favourite development proposal, sending it to public hearing. Surprisingly, some people didn’t like this.

“It is unbelievable that a proposal this unpopular could even be considered in the first place, let alone voted for,” says Dogwood Initiative’s Gordon O’Connor. “This is a clear indication that our land use decision making system is broken.”

Between the CRD’s failed overtures to Minister Ida Chong, and lobbying by the public, environmental organizations, and politicians, a frustrated desire for change has made itself painfully apparent in recent months.

Echoing this, CRD Director Philippe Lucas explains: “It would have been very easy for Block A to simply defer its decision-making responsibility on this to the CRD board, to simply listen to the public and to the opinions of fellow directors.”

But wait — the proposed amendment to the CRD’s voting structure would see land-use decisions for areas deemed regionally significant shifted from Block A to the CRD board. Why, argues Block A, should I as a resident of Victoria get involved in something so far from the scope of my daily life?

“I think that we have to look at the reality of what are regional assets and regional issues,” replies Lucas. “If the City of Victoria decided to pave over Beacon Hill Park . . . I have no doubt that regional directors would want to have a say on that.”

And so would I, just like I want to have a say in how our region — not just the area I live in — grows and changes, and how we treat what wilderness remains in the capital.

This has been tense, confusing, and most recently disappointing — but thankfully it seems far from over. M

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