2015’s top stories No. 10: Jumbo decisions

There was a lot of action in the Jumbo front this year, and it will continue into 2016.

A mountain goat above Jumbo pass observes the continuation in 2015 of the drama around the future of the proposed Jumbo real estate development.

Jumbo Glacier Resort extended its successful 20-plus-year run as a newsmaker into 2015. In June, environment minister Mary Polak dropped a bombshell that will ensure the real estate development’s prominence on the news pages will continue into next year.

Polak declared construction of the resort had not been substantially started by Oct. 12, 2014. That date represented a deadline dictated by provincial legislation: if a proposed project is not substantially started by five years after a renewed environmental certificate is issued, it must be cancelled.

The tricky question was the definition of “substantially started.” Polak and her staff spent several months mulling this over, consulting legal authorities, and visiting the site in the Purcell Mountains near Invermere. In early October, with the deadline looming, Glacier Resorts Ltd. hurriedly built a road and bridge and poured a concrete pad for an outbuilding — the only construction the company has undertaken so far.

Polak decided those building efforts were not enough, and cancelled the company’s environmental assessment certificate, one of the essential documents that allows a project to proceed. It appeared the only way for the company to continue with its plans would be to apply for a new environmental certificate, a lengthy and costly process.

Opponents of the project celebrated. But not for long.

Tom Oberti on behalf of Jumbo Glacier Resorts, and Greg Deck as mayor of the Jumbo Glacier resort municipality, told the Star in July they were not done yet. They expessed optimism Jumbo would still somehow be built, and Oberti stated the company would either reduce the size of the development so that it would not require an environmental certificate at all, or take the government to court over the cancellation of its certificate. Eventually it did the latter. On Dec. 17, the company filed papers in BC Supreme Court for a judicial review of Polak’s decision (see related story linked below). This newest court action will play out in 2016.

In August, the BC Court of Appeal turned down a bid by the Ktunaxa First Nation for a court declaration that the approval of the resort violates the Ktunaxa’s Charter right to freedom of religion. The Ktunaxa are seeking leave to appeal that decision to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Also in the courts, the West Kootenay EcoSociety’s case against the project was unsuccessful. The EcoSociety argued in BC Supreme Court that the government’s creation of a municipality with no residents was wrong because such a municipality can only be created where there is a reasonable expectation that it will have an electorate and elections within four years. The judge disagreed, stating the province properly passed legislation that allowed the formation of the municipality regardless of how many electors live in it.

Jumbo Glacier Resort Project not ‘substantially started’ June 19

The Jumbo decision: Mayor Deck responds June 19

Court is an option, says Jumbo developer after government kills project June 23

Ktunaxa appeal Jumbo decision to Supreme Court October 24

Jumbo judicial review dismissed November 11

Jumbo developer sues province December 23