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Upholding Reconciliation Agreement means revisiting Centre Mountain construction schedule

Reversing some elements of the schedule will help advance Scia’new First Nation business park

A map showing the changed borders from the 2017 land swap between Sc’ianew, Langford, and Metchosin. Photo: Te'mexw Treaty Association

A somewhat complicated land swap that gave rise to the Centre Mountain development has Scia’new (Beecher Bay) First Nation frustrated with delays that impact its interest in the proposed business park and present a challenge to the spirit of economic reconciliation in the area. 

The Centre Mountain business and residential park property was part of a 2017 land swap agreement between Beecher Bay, Langford and Metchosin. Per that agreement, tax revenues were set to be split via a tax-sharing agreement between all three entities. In 2017, the Beecher Bay First Nation transferred its treaty settlement lands in Metchosin for a one-third share of the new business park. Through the agreement, Scia’new obtained an ownership interest in the business park development.

As part of subsequent rezoning, the land swap allowed for the creation of Centre Mountain residential and business parks. Promises were made around the timeline of the construction of the business park that initially required the scheduling of construction of water infrastructure through Centre Mountain residential first.

One of the key elements of that promised infrastructure is a detention pond for stormwater management. The ongoing re-design of the catchment pond has resulted in a delayed start to the construction of the Scia’new business park. The delay is now raising the spectre of Metchosin and Langford not meeting obligations of their 2017 Reconciliation Agreement relating to the promised economic benefits of the complex land transfer for the First Nation. 

Acknowledging those obligations, Metchosin council approved a work-around on April 22, that will leapfrog the building of water and electricity infrastructure critical to the construction of the business park through an amendment to the Land Title Act and Covenant 219 ahead of the residential water infrastructure. 

In 2019, the City of Langford granted the owners of the future business park a variance permit to access water from the Happy Valley aquifer.  A Stormwater Management Covenant for the buffer lands Metchosin received in the land swap was put in place to ensure that current flow and water quality to Bilston Creek would not change. 

To do this, the covenant called for the construction of a stormwater management pond prior to the development of infrastructure in Centre Mountain’s residential area. However, design modifications to reduce the pond’s size means it is taking too long. The anticipated completion date for the modified pond is not until 2026.

For Beecher Bay, the delay has meant more waiting to reap the benefits from the industrial park it will majority own.

Scia’new Nation’s Robert Janes said that “Scia’new has been cut off from the economic benefits of the development of surrounding lands as the Westshore has grown.” Completing the long-awaited business park will provide the First Nation much needed jobs and timely economic benefits.

The request to amend the covenant arose for Scia’new and Langford because it has taken longer than expected to confirm details on the stormwater management detention pond and plan in relation to the Centre Mountain residential development. As a consequence, the District of Metchosin agreed to amend the covenant to permit the installation of water services passing through the residential development site to the industrial lands now to allow that project to stay on track. 

The staggered construction schedule originally dictated that water for the business park—originating from Happy Valley Road—was meant to come through the Centre Mountain residential area first. The workaround means water and electricity infrastructure will be delivered for the business park first. 

However, the workaround isn’t a shortcut to environmental legislation and municipal construction codes. As Langford engineer Peter Ferguson said at the April 22 council meeting, “The parts that are going to trigger the need for the septic for the stormwater pond or the hard surface things—the roads, the sidewalks, the houses, the lawns—is still prohibited until the stormwater management pond is designed and constructed.”

The amendment also calls for the sale of 34 residential lots of the proposed Phase I to fund Phase II and the building of an emergency road connection to Centre Mountain business park by the end of 2025. This emergency gravel road will be used to build the water infrastructure to the business park. 

The water infrastructure will include the installation of a reservoir and a pump station. Once the water infrastructure is built for Phases I and II, operations and maintenance of the water will eventually be handed over to the Capital Regional District. The upfront costs to construct the water service will be shouldered by Langford.

Metchosin Coun. Steve Gray told The Westshore, “We have been advised by our staff and Langford's that this change will not adversely impact overall effective stormwater management for the residential development.” 

Stormwater from the “new” Phase I will travel via pipe to a ditch on Happy Valley Road then through a culvert to Bilston Creek. Bilston Creek is home to cutthroat trout and 200 other species that rely on the overall health of the watershed and so the Bilston Watershed Habitat Protection Association is also keeping its eye on new Centre Mountain developments.