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'Growth Is Coming': Developer Floats Plan for Jordan River

Town of 10,000 sketched for controversial forest land release.

Andrew MacLeod 18 Apr 2008TheTyee.ca

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee's Legislative Bureau chief in Victoria. You can reach him here.

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Section of map that shows Ilkay’s proposal.

Vancouver developer Ender Ilkay released rough plans on April 18 for the 2,550 hectares of land that have been at the centre of a land use controversy on southern Vancouver Island.

The plan would keep 1,186 hectares of "natural green space," including an area that would join the Sooke Potholes Regional Park and another that would add to French Beach Provincial Park. It would maintain public access to the waterfront and add to a trail system joining the Galloping Goose Trail to the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail.

Ilkay's vision also calls for 10,000 people concentrated in a revitalized Jordan River, some 220 rural lots averaging one hectare each and several 454 hectares of denser "mixed housing" which would include everything from townhouses to estate homes.

The land in question was managed for forestry under the Tree Farm Licence system until Forest Minister Rich Coleman allowed Western Forest Products Inc. to remove it in January 2007. After much public outcry Auditor General John Doyle is investigating that release and is expected to report on his findings in May.

Nothing to lose

In an interview earlier in the week, Ilkay said he was considering making his ideas public. "I haven't completely decided this is a good idea," he said. "At the same time, I'm seeing a window closing here. . . . At this point I've got nothing to lose."

The Capital Regional District plans to give fourth reading on April 23 to a bylaw that would make the minimum lot size in the area 120 hectares. Meanwhile Western Forest Products, which still owns the land Ilkay is looking at, has applied to the Transportation Ministry to subdivide the land into 319 lots of between two and five hectares. It has also posted those plans on its website.

Ilkay said he dislikes both ideas. "I think there's a better alternative than what's going on," he said. "I've certainly done rural lot subdivisions, but my main interest here was and is a different vision."

He would have preferred to present plans after holding public consultations, he said. There's also a need for archaeological impact assessments, consultation with First Nations, transportation planning and wildlife habit reviews, he said, and releasing plans early could be seen as presumptuous.

"How about both sides just stop," he said. "I don't think people want to see rush decisions on either side."

Planning needed

As it happens, a pause would suit at least some residents of the area.

"Your planning should be done before you start doing this stuff, not afterwards," said Arnie Campbell, the president of the Otter Point and Shirley Residents and Ratepayers Association. "It's extremely difficult to look at either of these and be able to give constructive comment let alone criticism without the background planning in place."

The unincorporated area has an official community plan, but it was incomplete when it passed last year, he said. The CRD is only beginning to extend its master parks plan to the area. And the region has been working on residential zoning policies for three years.

"Get the planning done," said Campbell. "We have no control over our destiny given what the CRD and the province are doing on our behalf . . . They're making decisions without even knowing what they're deciding on. It's so frustrating."

Speaking about the Ilkay proposal, he added, "This is what we're trying to avoid. This haphazardness land owners seem to think is their right." The planning should be done by the local communities, he said, not developers.

Ilkay said, "Growth is coming. I think it would be great to be able to have a positive impact on how that growth occurs."

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