Helping Shirley Stay Rural – by SEAS President, Dominique Bernardet
Since 2003 the rural lifestyle most everyone hoped would continue unfettered has been under constant attack. Local and Provencal government, working in conjunction with out of town developers has tried and tried again to turn Shirley from a rural small town to another Langford or Colwood.
First it was acres and acres of property that was once owned by Merrill Ring logging. It was sold with a “no development covenant” on the deed to Chew Excavating. Chew thought they could have the covenant removed and made several attempts. The community came together and stopped the outsized and suburban development – working to keep Shirley rural.
About the same time Guiding Owl Investments purchased 175 acres surrounding the Sheringham Point Lighthouse. The owners of the Vancouver based development company tried to walk over the local community to build whatever they wanted using the Bare Land Strata Act, which circumvents local development by-laws. Only because of restrictions by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the CRD Parks Commission (SEAPAC at the time) members of community were able to negotiate the best deal possible, limiting the development, and saving access to the lighthouse.
Next the Province tried to amalgamate Shirley and other rural communities, into Sooke – a Municipality that represents the ultimate in urban sprawl. Using the “logic” that Shirley cannot govern itself and indicating that the Province would not entertain creating a Municipality for Shirley, the Minister of Community Affairs, Ida Chong, decided in secret with the Sooke Mayor and Council that Shirley would be theirs. After an 82% NO vote, the Province backed away. Sooke, however, persisted and annexed property from other areas near Shirley in effect stealing the tax base from the rural communities.
And then developers tried to build an RV Park on land just above the highway at Tieullie Place. SEAS leadership and membership rallied the community and fought for the rural nature of Shirley once again. The RV Park was defeated and the land remained bare – making room for Stoked Pizza which has recently been established on the land.
While the examples listed show how the government and out of town developers are trying their best to flat out destroy the rural nature of Shirley — what do all the examples have in common?
All these attempts that would take away the rural nature of the Shirley Community were actively opposed by SEAS and its volunteer membership.
What is SEAS? SEAS is the Shirley Education and Action Society founded in 2003 when a group of local residents, fed-up with attacks on Shirley rural community came together to try and end these constant attacks.
With the strong leadership of founding member and first elected President, Maureen Nelson and others in the Shirley community, SEAS volunteers worked endless hours to educate and inform members of the community about the affect of these misguided development plans and other government proposals.
Along the way, there were several victories
- no development on the Chew Property;
- a healthy defeat of the amalgamation with Sooke proposal;
- a smarter plan for the Sheringham Point Road property subdivision;
- and many other examples of SEAS volunteers fighting to keep Shirley rural.
Now comes the ultimate attack on Shirley’s rural lifestyle. The Western Forest Products Provincial land give away and subsequent development plans.
Over 132,000 hectares (that’s over 326,000 acres and over ½ of Shirley) are now in jeopardy of becoming the ultimate in unplanned and unfocused development and thoughtless urban sprawl.
SEAS needs your help and membership now more than ever.
Please consider joining the many SEAS volunteer members in fighting to keep the rural lifestyle alive in Shirley.