Langford and Metchosin earned the praises of Beecher Bay Chief Russ Chipps following the finalization of a landmark boundary shift.
“People say they want to work with First Nations. These two communities actually do,” Chipps said following an announcement at the B.C. Legislature on Tuesday afternoon, where provincial approval for the deal was announced.
The swap will see Metchosin keep three parcels of treaty land within its borders as green space while shrinking its northern border with Langford to allow for the creation of a business park and residential development. Beecher Bay will receive 30-per-cent ownership of the business park and the three parties will enter into a tax-sharing agreement on land planned for industrial use.
“I hope this leads to education, housing,” Chipps said. “We want to bring our people back home.”
The business park is expected to create as many as 4,000 permanent jobs.
Langford Mayor Stew Young was impressed with how quickly the agreement came together. The basics of the deal were made public six months ago and the swap had to receive approval from all three municipalities, including a Jan. 28 referendum in Metchosin.
“It’s sometimes a long process, but I have to say this is one of the fastest processes I’ve been involved in,” Young said.
Throughout negotiations, Metchosin Mayor John Ranns often said the swap is vital towards maintaining Metchosin’s status as a rural community. Beecher Bay had made it clear it was planning to develop the three parcels of treaty land within Metchosin’s boundaries with an eye towards economic development.
“When we started, this was just a business deal, but it’s become much more than that … Governance does work. It shows we don’t need amalgamation,” Ranns joked.
The parties involved have expressed hope that this co-operative agreement between an urban centre, a rural municipality and a First Nations community can be an example for the rest of the province.
“This is another step in our journey toward reconciliation,” Chipps said.
Peter Fassbender, Minister of Community, Sport and Cultural Development, added, “the boundary change process provides a good example of how First Nations and municipal neighborus can work together for mutual benefit.”
–with files from Tom Fletcher