Saturday, May 5, 2012

Victoria: Who Owns What?

Once upon a time, and for a very long time, there was no such thing as land ownership.  The earth, water, and sky was honoured, revered, and respected as the great sustainer of life. Then one day the white people arrived, with all their ideas about commerce and property rights and patriarchy, and they began to take control of the land and the people and all the creatures. 

Fast forward to May 2012, and an informal gathering at a little coffee shop in what’s now known as Victoria.  Councilor Shellie Gudgeon is living up to her election campaign promising to help strengthen communities.  She’s meeting with whoever shows up at the neighbourhood’s monthly coffee/tea meeting, listening to our concerns and sharing hers.

Since last week’s announcement that there is some intention, from elected officials, to sell off public land and naming rights, one of Shellie’s main concerns is about mapping what is public and what is private land in her electoral riding of Victoria.  She believes that, prior to rushing ahead with a significant waterfront land sale, the city ought to a) consult with the electorate who collectively own that land and b) prepare a cohesive vision of the waterfront for the future, taking into consideration all the vision planning that has been prepared in the past.

This makes sense.  Surprisingly, according to what Shellie has been able to discern, not only is there no coherent cohesive vision of what Victoria’s waterfront might look like for future generations, there doesn’t seem to be any consensus about which lands the city currently owns. Apparently city staff recently created such a map, at the request of Councilor Ben Isitt, but there’s no agreement about all the information presented on it. For example, the greenspace at the north east corner of the Bay Bridge (near Point Ellice) is either privately owned, or it’s city property, depending on who you speak with.

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