Metchosin residents are angry about the process behind the stalled sale of buffer zone land which they say have undermined public trust.
At the core of this swirling vortex involving multiple municipal governments, the Capital Regional District and the Scia’new First Nation, are residents who say they’ve been kept in the dark throughout the process.
The District of Metchosin had been working on selling the largest portion of the buffer zone (around 112 acres) – land acquired during the 2017 land swap agreement between Metchosin, Langford and the Scia’new – to the CRD for $274,400. There were also plans in the works to sell two other parcels to the CRD. But that process has stalled, according to Metchosin’s chief administrative officer Lisa Urlacher.
Metchosin council passed an in-camera resolution Oct. 25 that paused the sale process until an environmental assessment and public consultation could be held.
Residents are now calling on the district to suspend all activity related to the sale of the land. Multiple community members plan to present to district councillors during Monday’s (July 18) meeting in hopes of stopping the buffer zone land sale process.
“This process is perceived as being nothing short of a breach of trust to the signatories (of the land swap agreement) and the residents of Metchosin,” Avril Yoachim wrote in a July 14 letter to council.
CRD land sale notice raises eyebrows
Jay Shukin, president of the Association for the Protection of Rural Metchosin, said he was “flabbergasted” when he learned of Metchosin’s plans to sell the land when he saw a public notice in the Goldstream Gazette in October 2021. It was the first he had heard that negotiations were even happening. The lack of consultation with residents was one area of concern, he said, but another was the price.
Emails obtained by Shukin through a Freedom of Information request showed that the $274,400 price tag was determined by a CRD appraiser based on the view the property would be used for parkland. Currently, the land is zoned commercial recreation (CR2/CR3), the same as Olympic View Golf Course. BC Assessment valued the land in 2022 at more than $2.85 million.
Shukin said the land sale priced seemed undervalued, pointing to a 24-acre portion of View Royal parkland which the CRD recently purchased for $927,500.
Centre Mountain Business Park also nears approval
Shukin is also concerned about the influence of neighbouring municipality Langford.
Langford council is set to vote Monday (July 18) on the adoption of multiple bylaws that would allow the city to borrow money and establish local service areas around the proposed Centre Mountain residential and business parks, to construct road and water access.
The project initially came before council in 2017 when rezoning was approved for the property, which fell under City of Langford’s jurisdiction after the land-swap agreement.
Daryl Minifie, senior land development technologist for the City of Langford, emailed Metchosin staff on July 16, 2018 asking when the district planned to dedicate the buffer zone as parkland, so Langford could use that land to meet zoning requirements for the planned residential portion of the Centre Mountain development. Metchosin had been considering dedicating the buffer land as parkland, but that process hasn’t happened yet.
“That email was specific to the residential side of this development only. Metchosin confirmed by phone that the land in question was planned to be used as parkland/open space,” a spokesperson for the City of Langford said. The added that portions of the residential side of Centre Mountain would be given to Langford as parkland and that “the plans adhere to what was accepted during the municipal boundary adjustment process.”
The District of Metchosin did not respond to requests for comment on that email or what the district’s response was.