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Cowichan Tribes purchase of Genoa Bay Farm raises development, logging questions

Cowichan Tribes has purchased Genoa Bay Farm and plans to develop a residential community on the lands, says Chief William Seymour.

Logging may also be in the future, although Seymour said in an interview with that the extent and nature of any cutting has yet to be determined. The farm has some of the last best Douglas firs in the Municipality of North Cowichan.

“We might have some selective logging. Nothing huge.”

So no clearcutting? “No.”

Seymour, who was re-elected to a fourth two-year term earlier this month, described the farm as about 130 hectares and the purchase from a numbered company in the ballpark of $10 million — all made possible by a loan, although he did not provide specifics.

“It’s huge,” he said of the purchase. “You’ve got farmland, timberlands and waterfront.”

Seymour said the farm used to be reserve land, but that the federal government “sold it from under us” around the late 1800s and that “it was a matter of getting it back for us.”

He said Cowichan Tribes is now working with the federal government to have the farm put back into reserve — and away from oversight by North Cowichan — although the process could take some time.

While it’s understandable that the First Nation wants to advance its economic position, there’s undoubtably going to be planning concerns related to a residential subdivision suddenly popping up in the absence of a comprehensive area plan.

While Cowichan Tribes has not yet made any decisions about the future of the farm, Seymour noted “we’re probably looking at a small subdivision, maybe 40 homes” somewhere on the lands.

North Cowichan is about to launch a public consultation into management of the 5,000-hectare Municipal Forest Reserve, also known as the Six Mountains — Tzouhalem, Stoney, Maple, Richards, Sicker, and Prevost.

The municipality is bending over backwards to accommodate Cowichan Tribes on the forestry file, giving the First Nation representation on the Forest Advisory Committee and authorizing a parallel consultation during the Municipal Forest Reserve review.

Asked if Cowichan Tribes will extend the same courtesy to North Cowichan on the future of Genoa Bay Farm, Seymour remained non-committal. “Maybe, I don’t know,” he said. “I haven’t discussed it with my staff or even with North Cowichan, yet.”

— Larry Pynn, Dec. 23, 2019


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