Michelle Mungall said on Friday that the decision to stop development of the controversial Jumbo Resort project was the right one.
Earlier in the week, Mary Polak, provincial environment minister, announced that she has determined that developers had not made the “substantial progress” required by their environmental certificate. She declared that approval to proceed was now void.
“I wasn’t surprised,” the MLA for Nelson-Creston said. “I felt it was the only way things could go if the Minister of Environment was doing her job.”
“I have determined that the project, in my reasonable opinion, had not been substantially started by Oct. 12, 2014,” Polak wrote in her 10-page decision. “While it is clear that some construction has been started, I am not convinced that the physical activity undertaken on the various components meets the threshold of a substantially started project.”
Jumbo Glacier Resort proponents first received an environmental certificate allowing the development, which had been in the planning stage since about 1990, in 2004. A five-year extension was granted in 2009. During that period, the provincial government worked to help the project along by designated the unpopulated area as a municipality, appointing a mayor and council to taken on responsibilities including creation of an Official Community Plan. The council has been receive more than $200,000 annually to operate.
“Not surprisingly, I am disappointed,” Jumbo Glacier Resort Mayor Greg Deck told the Invermere Valley Echo last week. “I would presume that the proponent will be meeting with the province to understand more fully the rational and the options, but I am not party to that process.”
Deck said if negotiations between Jumbo Glacier Ltd and the province cease, the $1 million that has been allocated to his council over a five-year term will likely be reallocated elsewhere.
“We exist to provide a municipal underpinning to the agreement between the province and Jumbo Glacier Resort, and if those necessary agreements are not in place, then our funding will be in question,” Deck said.
While a spokesman said the development was far from dead, Mungall said that getting a new environmental certificate to proceed won’t be easy.
“The environmental certificate that expired last fall was issued based on 20-year-old data that would not be approved today,” she said. “And it is important to note that we are in an era of reconciliation and relationship-building with First Nations people. Jumbo is a sacred place to the Ktunaxa Nation and to approve the project now would not be in line with how Canadian governments are now moving forward.”
Mungall was emotional when she pointed out the long fight against the proposed ski resort and residential development was waged by a number of area residents who have been tenacious in their opposition.
“I give full credit to people of the Kootenays and First Nations leaders for standing up against the development for two decades,” she said. “I am proud to represent some these amazing, amazing people.”
She referred to one Invermere area resident “who drove up that road every day for years to monitor the developer’s activity and report his findings.”
The next step for the provincial government should be to dispose of the municipal government.
“The NDP caucus is calling for the government to rescind the order that created a fake town,” she said. “There should be no more waste taxpayers dollars. Instead, let’s create a legacy for the Kootenays. Let’s start by addressing Johnston’s Landing. Those residents should get a buyout program similar to the one North Vancouver residents were given in 2005. Now is the chance to do the right thing. Those people need their basic needs, including drinking water, met after three years in limbo.”
Columbia River Revelstoke MLA Norm Macdonald, a member of the NDP caucus, has called for the removal of concrete work done by developers in an attempt to start the project.
“When the proponent began to lay concrete slabs, the point we made was, is the government sure the proponent has the capacity to remove the mess they made? So now the Ministry needs to insist that happens so the valley can be returned to the state it was in.”
Macdonald has been involved in the Jumbo proposal since he was Mayor of Golden in 1993. He has been the area’s MLA since 2005.
“My perspective has always been that communities have a right to have significant say on what happens on the Crown land around them. In Golden, we had a referendum before Kicking Horse was developed and it indicated tremendous support. In the Columbia Valley, that support was never there.
“Then there was the very clear First Nations interest. They were very clear on the importance of that area to them. It’s a huge victory for the people of this area. I have to think this is the end of it and we can move on.”