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Confusion in Metchosin about in-council buffer land talks

Protected green space, land ownership, and freedom of information requests

By Zoë Ducklow
July 6, 2022
Latest News
News
Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Confusion in Metchosin about in-council buffer land talks

Protected green space, land ownership, and freedom of information requests

By Zoë Ducklow
Jul 6, 2022
A map showing the changed borders from the 2017 land swap between Sc'ianew, Langford, and Metchosin. Photo: Te'mekw Treaty Association
A map showing the changed borders from the 2017 land swap between Sc'ianew, Langford, and Metchosin. Photo: Te'mekw Treaty Association
Latest News
News
Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Confusion in Metchosin about in-council buffer land talks

Protected green space, land ownership, and freedom of information requests

By Zoë Ducklow
July 6, 2022
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Confusion in Metchosin about in-council buffer land talks
A map showing the changed borders from the 2017 land swap between Sc'ianew, Langford, and Metchosin. Photo: Te'mekw Treaty Association

Last October an engaged Metchosin resident, president of the Association for the Protection of Rural Metchosin Jay Shukin, noticed an ad in the local paper. It was a notice of disposition of property for PID 030-095-875, “Lot A,” for $274,400 to the Capital Regional District.

Presumably most readers wouldn’t know where Lot A was, or why the CRD wanted to buy it. But Shukin knew it was part of the historic 2017 land swap and border realignment between Sc'ianew First Nation, Metchosin, and Langford.

Finalized in February 2017, that border realignment was a three-way trade where Sc'ianew gave up Crown land being offered to it as part of the Te’mekw treaty negotiation in exchange for a one-third ownership of a new business park, and a portion of tax revenue from development on the Langford side of the swap.

Metchosin received the Crown land to be protected as green space, and transferred its own land to Langford to be developed. Metchosin didn’t get ownership of the business park, but does share the tax revenue, and got to ensure the green space will not be developed, something they could not have controlled if the land was owned by Sc'ianew.

So when Shukin saw that land considered for sale, he was shocked. It seemed like Metchosin was giving up the land meant to be a buffer between the business park currently under construction and rural Metchosin. How could that happen without community consultation—and wasn’t $274K too little for 45 hectares? (View Royal, by contrast, is in the midst of a deal to sell a much smaller amount of parkland to the CRD for almost three times the price.)

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Shukin and others formed the Friends of the Metchosin Buffer Land, filed freedom of information requests, and started writing letters to council. They key issue for Shukin was that there had been no public consultation, and there didn’t seem to be a plan for a referendum, a vote, or a survey.

CRD wanted to buy the Metchosin land because there’s an adjacent privately-owned piece of land they were also interested in. The idea was to make a large connected park, conveniently located along the Galloping Goose trail. So they approached Metchosin, who had a series of in-camera meetings to talk about it.

In November, however, council made an in-camera decision to reject the purchase offer. Mayor John Ranns said it's because the price was too low. The CRD is bound by the official property assessment, and wasn’t able to offer more, so the deal is moot, Ranns said.

“There was a figure that we all understood, but I didn’t trust the mechanism that we would get that,” Ranns told The Westshore.

What that mechanism is, Ranns couldn’t say. He just said his hands are tied in a communications protocol agreement related to the Mary Hill Indigenous Protected Area (IPA) standstill agreement, announced earlier this year.Also part of the Te’mekw treaty process, the Mary Hill agreement is a proposal for Sc’ianew to steward the 137 hectares if it gets ownership as part of the treaty settlement. For the last 70 years, the land has been held by the Department of National Defence, but it’s been untouched and inaccessible, and Sc’ianew expects the land to be transferred in the treaty.

As a partner to the standstill agreement, Metchosin, with Pearson College and Habitat Acquisition Trust, are committed to “diligently pursue this outcome for the duration of the agreement.” That is, fundraising, developing the concept, and a communications protocol stating that anything related to the agreement can only be made public with the steering committee’s direction.

If that confidentiality agreement is keeping discussion about Lot A behind closed doors, it sounds like the Mary Hill partners are somehow involved in Lot A discussions. Ranns says he can’t elaborate.

“They aren’t necessarily [involved], but there's a crossover that, very frustratingly for me, has to remain confidential,” Ranns said.

That's frustrating for Shukin, too, who is trying to make sense of the 1,500 pages of documents the freedom of information requests uncovered. There are a lot of questions he can’t get answers to, because discussions were in-camera, or are bound by the Mary Hill communications protocol.

He summarized his concerns as a community trust issue. There was a great deal of communication and consultation about the initial 2017 land swap, which resulted in a strong yes (76%) vote from Metchosin residents. He wants to see the same level of open discussion around potential uses for the land, whether it’s a sale to the CRD or development of a Metchosin-owned park.

Article Author's Profile Picture
Zoë Ducklow
Reporter, The Westshore

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