A three-way land swap that will see the Beecher Bay First Nation trade treaty lands for a one-third interest in a Langford business park was announced Monday.
The tentative deal, which changes municipal boundaries, was called “historic” by Langford Mayor Stewart Young, Metchosin Mayor John Ranns and Beecher Bay (Scia’new) First Nation Chief Russ Chipps.
It’s a shared vision to deliver job growth, environmental stewardship and First Nations prosperity.
“It’s what we’ve been searching for,” said Chipps. The partnership hopes to provide better education, jobs, housing and lifestyle for the band’s youth, he said.
The parties are anxious to move the deal along but stress there will be numerous opportunities for community consultation.
It must be approved by the provincial government and Capital Regional District and also needs approval of the communities by way of a referendum or alternative approval process under the Local Government Act.
Under the plan, all three jurisdictions — Langford, Metchosin and Beecher Bay — swap land and enter a tax-sharing agreement for South Langford Business Park, which is to be built out over 20 to 25 years and have employment of up to 4,000 people.
“Don’t expect to see it overnight, but the planning has to be there first,” said Young.
The deal will protect as green space three parcels of land in Metchosin, which is treaty land owned by Beecher Bay, totalling 250 acres. Beecher Bay will hand over the parcels to Metchosin. The municipality also expects to receive 120 acres of private land but that deal is still in the works.
In exchange, Metchosin will shrink by that same total amount, 370 acres, and Langford’s southern border will grow by 380 acres.
The growth in Langford will allow for a business park that’s bigger than originally planned. It will be built along Highway 14 and is being designed to accommodate manufacturing and warehousing, along with a residential component.
Beecher Bay, Metchosin and Langford will equally share the tax revenue. The overarching goal is to protect what’s regarded as significant environmental land in Metchosin while maintaining that community’s rural way of life.
One of the parcels Metchosin will take over is heavily used by equestrians while another surrounds Pearson College.
“This is the culmination of a dream,” said Ranns. “We incorporated for the purpose of keeping Metchosin as a rural community.
“The last obstacle is to control all the land within our boundary and we’ve now solved that problem,” said Ranns. “But equal to that has been our desire to see Beecher Bay become an equal and sustainable community as well.”
Chipps said the land Beecher Bay is giving up is not ideal for development. The band also did not want to develop something that would have a negative impact on Metchosin.
“We want a better future for our kids and the only way we’re going to get that to happen is through economic development,” said Chipps.
Monday’s announcement took place at Spirit Bay, a 100-acre development underway on the East Sooke waterfront that includes about 600 homes and a resort being built by the Trust for Sustainable Development and Beecher Bay.
Developer David Butterfield said he would have “loved the opportunity” to develop the Metchosin land with Beecher Bay, but the partnership deal and land swap is a “win-win.”
South Langford Business Park will have sewer and water service, and access to Highway 14. It will be built along the highway about 400 metres from the newly constructed intersection of Westshore Parkway and Sooke Road.
“This is your future, this is the future of the region, this is the future of your youth,” said Young, at a news conference. There is no other place on southern Vancouver Island where such a significant business park would work or make sense, said Young.
With boundary changes that involve provincial legislation, the deal is tricky, said Victoria lawyer Robert Janes. “This I would say is one of the most complex deals that has been put together in southern Vancouver Island,” Janes said. “It involves the treaty process, it involves local governments, it involves the Indian Act and private negotiations.”