Plans for a new town with houses built on pilings in the bay, holiday cottages, million-dollar homes, a commercial centre and spa were revealed Thursday by the Trust for Sustainable Development and Beecher Bay (Scia-new) First Nation.
Children pulled down a tarpaulin covering the large sign advertising Spirit Bay, with between 500 and 800 units to be built on reserve land overlooking the East Sooke waterfront.
It was a symbolic move as band members are hoping the development represents a better future for young people on a reserve that has been plagued with high unemployment and poverty.
“Today is about the future of our children, about job skills and job opportunities for our youth. Today is about moving forward,” said Chief Russ Chipps.
“Scia-new First Nation is awake. We are creating a new day for our people and taking responsibility for ourselves and our land, with our dignity shining through.”
The first phase will have about 30 homes in the area that was formerly part of Cheanuh Marina campsite, where many residents had built permanent structures.
Evicted campsite residents remain resentful: 106 of the 125 sites were occupied and the majority of homes they erected with the band’s permission cannot be moved, meaning losses in the tens of thousands of dollars. B.C.’s tenant-protection laws do not apply to federal land.
Cleanup will start Sept. 2, with marketing starting Oct. 5, said developer David Butterfield.
Depending on sales, the first home could be ready next June, he said.
“It’s going to be a new town, so there will be all kinds of housing available, from $289,000 to $1 million,” he said.
The project cost will be between $300 million and $400 million over 10 years.
Buyers will have 99-year leases, and the band will retain 51 per cent interest in the partnership.
Initially, the commercial centre will have a small grocery store and gas station, Butterfield said.
“And eventually we would like to have recreation facilities there and a carvers’ school and carving shed and a medical facility that the band has dreamed about for a long time,” he said.
Everything will be built sustainably, Butterfield said.
“We are working within the traditional values of the First Nations people.”
Chipps said band members voted 80 per cent in favour of the development last week. As they gathered Thursday, most were cautiously optimistic.
“It’s a bit worrying because it’s a big change, but it will be good training. It will get the kids out and about and away from video games,” said Isabelle Charles.
“I think this is amazing. It’s a good thing for our children,” Flora Charles, 24, mother of two, added.
“It’s something to look forward to.”
The Beecher Bay band often splits between the Chipps and Charles families, but the project has created a united front, said former chief Burt Charles.
“We are pretty well together on this.
“I think it’s a good idea,” he said.
Band economic development officer Aaron Reith said the land, with spectacular waterfront views, is Beecher Bay’s greatest asset.
“They are leveraging that asset and moving one step closer to self-sufficiency.”
However, in the campground, where many are dismantling their homes, rancor remains, even though extensions to Nov. 30 have been given to residents who are not in the area to be developed first.
“They have been told there’s no guarantee that there will be water or hydro and, when they go, nothing can be left at the site. That’s not going to happen,” said Laurie Ezako, who has already moved.
“Some are digging in their heels and say they won’t go.”
Arlene Weatherell, who lived at the campsite for seven years, has also moved.
“But I’ve lost a bundle. About $30,000,” she said.
“There’s a lot of bitterness.”