Fearing a perception of bias towards the applicant, regional district directors took the unusual step of removing the chair from an upcoming public hearing.
Area D Director Brenda Leigh made a motion to replace Cortes Director Noba Anderson as chair of a public hearing for the Klahoose First Nation’s application to re-zone land in Squirrel Cove to accommodate a proposed marina.
Directors were concerned that because of recent statements made by Anderson in favour of the Klahoose, some may perceive the public hearing process as unfairly biasd towards the Klahoose. So directors agreed to alter what had been approved by the board in May and have Director Jim Abram replace Anderson as chair but have Leigh remain as vice-chair.
“Basically, it’s because of some of the discussions taking place in the communities by e-mail and otherwise,” Abram said in response to Director Mary Storry’s question of why Abram would want to take the “highly unusual” step of changing the chair. “I guess the process of the public hearing and in order to keep the procedure as innocuous as possible, this suggestion came up.”
It’s no secret that Anderson has been vocal in her support for the Klahoose since regional directors voted to decline the Klahoose’s invitation to hold the public hearing at its multi-purpose centre and instead host the meeting at what directors thought to be a neutral location – the Gorge Hall.
Anderson was concerned about the fallout from that decision and the effect it would have on Cortes Islanders’ relationship with the Klahoose.
Anderson tried to change the location of the meeting to the Klahoose multi-purpose centre at the board’s meeting in late June but her motion was defeated.
Anderson expressed her dismay at that decision in a newsletter to her constituents.
“Klahoose Chief James Delorme and Coun. Kathy Frances attended the June 12 SRD (Strathcona Regional District) board meeting in person to request that the public hearing location be changed to the Klahoose Hall,” Anderson wrote. “This request was denied. My position, as the Cortes director, was also clear in supporting this request.
“We must also look forward to the new era we are entering and listen, really listen to the requests of our neighbouring First Nation governments. Accommodation and reconciliation will mean that we will need to grow and change.
“I carried on (at the last board meeting) by saying that the simple location of this public hearing is symbolic of so much more. It is the will of Cortes, Klahoose and me as their representative that this hearing be held where it is most accessible to the people most affected by this application, Squirrel Cove residents and the Klahoose people.”
Directors voted to hold the meeting away from Klahoose territory so as not to appear biased towards the applicant and in response to people who wrote to directors expressing intimidation at speaking out against the marina proposal in the applicant’s community.
The public hearing will give the public a chance to voice their opinions on the application to re-zone property in Squirrel Cove to allow for the construction of a 69-berth, 46 single point mooring marina with a fuel dock, waste pump-out facility, power and water provision, a laundry, and float plane and water taxi docks. The application also involved the relocation of a 3.2-hectare shellfish tenure.
Directors will listen to submissions at the public hearing, which takes place July 24 at 1 p.m. at the Gorge Hall, and then make a decision on the re-zoning application at a board meeting in August.