Regional district shoots down Klahoose marina project

The Klahoose First Nation’s re-zoning application for a marina in Squirrel Cove has been denied by the Strathcona Regional District board

The Klahoose First Nation’s re-zoning application for a marina in Squirrel Cove has been denied by the Strathcona Regional District board.

The project, a 69-berth and 46 single-point mooring marina off Cortes Island, was proposed by the Klahoose Resort Limited Partnership earlier this year.

On Thursday, the application was up for third reading and was defeated after a 2-2 vote of electoral directors, with directors Jim Abram (Quadra Island) and Noba Anderson (Cortes) in favour and directors Brenda Leigh (Area D) and Gerald Whalley (Area A) opposed.

Before the vote at Thursday’s board meeting, Anderson urged her fellow directors to vote in favour of the application.

“In keeping with this Cortes support for the new OCP (Official Community Plan), almost all of the local island input received through this re-zoning process supported the Klahoose application,” Anderson said. “Although some support came with concern about business competition and project viability, none-the-less Cortes Islanders overwhelmingly supported the application.”

Abram sided with Anderson, saying he wanted to honour the wishes of the Cortes community and added that he hoped other directors would do the same.

However, Whalley voted against the application because he felt the boaters would be the ones most directly affected by the application and at last month’s public hearing, most of them opposed the project.

Director Leigh felt the application was inconsistent with Cortes’ Official Community Plan and said she believed the proposal was not an appropriate use of the area.

Directors also gathered the opinions of more than 35 people who spoke at a public hearing July 24 at the Gorge Hall on Cortes. The public hearing itself was controversial because of the regional district’s decision to decline the Klahoose’s invitation to hold the public hearing in the First Nation’s community.

The decision by the board to hold the public hearing in what some directors dubbed a “neutral” setting, the Gorge Hall, angered many Cortes Islanders and disappointed the Klahoose as well as Anderson, who had pushed the board to change its decision.

But the location was never changed and nearly one hundred people came out to the Gorge Hall to have their say.

Most Cortes Islanders supported the proposal.

Bob Tracy, a 30-year full-time resident of Cortes and a yachtsman and a shell fish grower, said the development of mooring buoys would be an improvement to the old booming grounds and felt the proposed sewage pump out station would be a good asset to the area.

Yvonne Kipp from Manson’s Landing on Cortes, said the development would provide a much-needed investment to the community and a vision for the future.

Cortes’ Sonja Friesen said if the applicant was not from Cortes she would not support the development, but spoke in favour of the project because she wanted to see the Klahoose improve their economic situation.

But not everyone was in favour.

Colin Robertson of Refuge Cove Marina, the nearest community to Squirrel Cove, said he was shocked by the Klahoose’s proposal as the community has already lost its shellfish tenure and its boating fleet and the only thing that sustains their livelihood is the boating industry, which would be taken away with the Klahoose building a marina just three kilometres away.

Sheila Boutcher, president of the Council of BC Yacht Clubs, also spoke against the development on behalf of the 10,000 plus members of the BC Yacht Clubs.

Boutcher said “there are serious doubts about the economics of the current proposal and boaters will not make use of the facilities if the proposal proceeds and the wilderness ambiance is lost,” according to the minutes of the public hearing.

“There are a maximum of 30-70 boats in the Cove during the season, other marinas in the area are not at capacity. Congestion caused by the float planes and the fuel dock will be detrimental to the local economy.”

Despite the board’s decision, Anderson said in a director’s report to her constituents posted on the website Tideline, that the Klahoose told the regional district in writing that it would still proceed with its marina development regardless of the board’s decision.

Anderson said in her report that the board’s decision has the potential to have consequences.

“The decision before us was not really one of the marina being developed or not but rather very simply one of supporting the will of a community and a nation or alienating a neighbouring government,” Anderson wrote. “However deeply unfortunate, we collectively chose the latter.”