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West Kootenay group continues Jumbo legal fight

West Kootenay EcoSociety executive director David Reid is seen in February 2012, when the organization filed its application for a judicial review of the creation of Jumbo Glacier mountain resort municipality. A year and a half later the case has not gone to court, but the EcoSociety has filed an amended brief, fleshing out its arguments. - Bob Hall photo
West Kootenay EcoSociety executive director David Reid is seen in February 2012, when the organization filed its application for a judicial review of the creation of Jumbo Glacier mountain resort municipality. A year and a half later the case has not gone to court, but the EcoSociety has filed an amended brief, fleshing out its arguments.
— image credit: Bob Hall photo

A local non-profit society hasn’t given up its legal challenge to the incorporation of Jumbo Glacier mountain resort municipality.

A year and a half after filing initial paperwork in the case, the Nelson-based West Kootenay EcoSociety has completed an amended brief asking the BC Supreme Court to quash the municipality’s creation.

Executive director David Reid said in an interview Tuesday that when their original brief was submitted in February 2013, their arguments weren’t fully fleshed out.

“We wanted to get our initial petition in as soon as possible, so people couldn’t say ‘You didn’t file soon enough.’ But it’s a complex case. It takes time to arrange legal precedents and do the research.”

Reid said the amended petition clarifies their argument that a new municipality must have a local population as well as a defined area. They say Jumbo — which has no people and is not likely to for some time — contradicts common law principles of democracy and public interest.

The society further asserts that “patchwork” amendments to the Local Government Act create “inconsistency and incoherence” to municipal legislation.

“In the government’s rush to pave the way for the Jumbo Resort, they’ve deeply undermined the democratic process,” Reid said.

The society also claims constitutional requirements were ignored in creating the municipality, resulting in an “unlawful and illegitimate body” that should not proceed with zoning and other matters without a court’s blessing.

The amended petition was filed this week, a day ahead of a public hearing on zoning in Jumbo Valley to allow a day lodge and ski lifts. Proponent Glacier Resorts Ltd., which wants to operate a year-round ski resort on the glacier, still needs provincial permits to begin construction.

Reid said debris is being cleared off the Jumbo road to allow access to the proposed area. However, the EcoSociety and other groups plan to camp there beginning mid-month, as they did last summer, to monitor any development. Columbia Valley RCMP said they anticipate protests.

The EcoSociety claims the developer hasn’t met all of the 195 legally-binding commitments as part of its environmental approval. The Environmental Assessment Office is investigating the complaints.

Jumbo Resort was first proposed in 1991 and received environmental approval in 2004. However, the developer’s environmental certificate will expire in October, ten years after initial approval, if the project has not “substantially started.”

Jumbo Glacier mountain resort municipality was officially incorporated a day after the EcoSociety filed its first petition, and is governed by a mayor and two councillors, who hail from Radium Hot Springs, Fairmont Hot Springs, and Invermere.

The provincial government gave the municipality $260,000 in start-up money last year, and a draft financial plan anticipates $1 million in further transfer payments over the next five years.

The glacier is in the Purcell Mountains, on the divide between West and East Kootenay. Access is via Invermere.

The Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development, which is named in the suit, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But the ministry and Jumbo municipality have both filed statements of defence and will have a chance to further respond to the EcoSociety’s latest documents. The municipality spent more than $10,000 in legal fees in 2013 dealing with the EcoSociety’s case.

No date or location has been set for a hearing, but Reid said he hoped it would take place before the developer or municipality move ahead on anything with long-standing impacts.

“I am confident we’ve raised some critical issues around democracy,” he said. “I know we have public sympathy and hope we will have the judge’s concern and sympathy as well.”

The EcoSociety’s revised brief can be found here.

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