Thursday, February 16, 2012

Tsawout shopping centre

I am not at all surprised that the Tsawout First Nation is moving forward with a development proposal on their land.   Local governments in much of the CRD have been at best difficult to deal with when people have proposed developments so looking to First Nation lands makes a lot of sense.

First Nations reserves lands are in a completely different land governance system than all the other lands within the CRD.   The land is within the CRD but not under any jurisdiction from BC or local governments.  The land has an unique underlying Federal Crown title.  It is not within the Torens land registry system.   BC land management laws do not apply - there is no ALR on Indian Reserves.   No local government bylaws apply and no local government zoning applies.

I have long wondered when some of the local First Nations would realize they are sitting on a very valuable local commodity, developable land.  We saw a first move by the Tsartlip First Nation and Peninsula Coop with the location of the new Coop headquarters, gas bar and grocery store last year.  

The Tsawout proposal is for a 650,000 shopping centre on the east side of the Pat Bay highway.   This is 60% larger than either the Bay Centre downtown or Mayfair mall.   This would make it one of the major shopping destinations in the CRD.   The Langford big box store area seems to be built out which means there is the demand in this region for a new location for more big box stores.

The shopping centre will bring in large revenues for whoever owns the land it will be built on, I do not know if it is band owned land or owned by an individual.   For the Tsawout First Nation there is also the potential to collect a lot of money in property taxes and GST.   This development should allow them enough own source revenues as a government to be able to have a degree of independence from Department of Indian Affairs micro management.   I am amazed First Nations can put up with the insane irrational micro management DIA subjects them to.

What I am very interested in is how the shopping centre will connect to the Pat Bay Highway.   Ideally if there is some thought put into it, either the lights at Island View or Mount Newton Cross road could be removed.   Actually best would be if both could be removed.   This would mean no lights from Sidney to Sayward road, a distance of about 15 kilometers.  

Ultimately I think there should be a plan for the Pat Bay highway to finally shift to a full divided highway without lights from Uptown to the ferry.   I am sure this will be seen as a sin against the world by some people out there.

For local governments a problem emerges with a lot of development on First Nation reserves.  They loss a lot of the lucrative commercial property taxes.   Local governments charge many times more property taxes on commercial properties than they ever provide in services.  If property taxes were based on services, commercial properties would pay a lower rate than residential properties.   Commercial properties are the cash cows that keep our residential property taxes so low in this region.   More and more of those dollars will be going to First Nation governments.
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