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Proposed resort pushes back after B.C government pulls its certificate

Russell Hixson
Proposed resort pushes back after B.C government pulls its certificate

The Jumbo Glacier Resort is appealing a decision by B.C. Environment Minister Mary Polak to cancel its environmental certificate, alleging that unfair timing of approvals and friendship with a project opponent affected the ruling. Polak decided that construction of the resort had not been substantially started by Oct. 12, 2014.

The date was a provincially legislated deadline. If a proposed project isn’t substantially started five years after a renewed environmental certificate is issued, it must be cancelled. However, what "substantially started" means is in contention.  In the weeks leading up to the deadline, Glacier Resorts Ltd. built roads and a concrete pad for an outbuilding – but it was not enough to meet the standard, said Polak.

If Glacier wants to build, it now must go through the lengthy and expensive certificate process again.

However, Glacier claims its hands were tied. According to the appeal, the province dragged its feet granting the Master Development Agreement and creating a special municipality for the resort, limiting what construction could be done. Glacier also claims it was under the impression to direct construction efforts towards skiing operations and not overnight housing. It also alleges Polak’s friendship with an opponent of the project may have impacted the decision. Following the announcement of the decision, Glacier stated its representatives met with provincial officials who informed them the minister had complete discretion in making the decision. They also asked Glacier representatives if they were aware that the minister is close friends with Katheryn Tenesse, director of the Ktunaxa Nation Council and the primary opponent of the project. Glacier replied that they were not aware of this. "The intended and, alternatively, only reasonable objective inference to be drawn from the latter statement is that the decision was influenced by matters irrelevant to the question of whether the project had been substantially started," stated Glacier in the appeal. It is asking that the decision to be quashed and the project declared substantially started. Jumbo Glacier Ski Resort is a ski resort 55 km west of Invermere, B.C.

At full buildout, it would have lift services to the Jumbo Glacier,  as well as several other glaciers year round for skiing in a controlled recreation area of 6,000 hectares. The regulatory process has taken more than 20 years. Glacier officials stated it is likely the most studied resort project of any type, in the history of B.C. Jumbo estimates the project would produce roughly $15 million to $20 million a year in construction activity for a period of 20 years until buildout.

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