Jumbo decision comes up at RDEK this Friday

Sparwood Mayor Dave Wilks will move that the RDEK Board ask the province for Resort Municipality designation for Jumbo Glacier

On Friday, August 7 at their regular monthly meeting, the RDEK board will be voting on a motion to ask the province to designate Jumbo Glacier a Mountain Resort Municipality, which would pass the controversial Jumbo Resort into the hands of the provincial government.

A decision on zoning the Jumbo area would then not be made by the Regional District, but by the committee designated to govern Jumbo.

“This is suggesting a resort municipality status for a place that isn’t (a municipality),” said Wildsight Executive Director John Bergenske.

He says the vote, brought forward to the RDEK by Sparwood mayor Davie Wilks, is something that has been done before.

“It’s basically a replay,” said Bergenske. “He seems to be attempting to do it again.”

The RDEK directors shot down the vote in March 2006, with only one director, Wilks himself, voting in favour. At the time, several delegates voiced concerns that sending the decision to the province would mean the project would go through automatically, without public input.

Bergenske plans to speak at this Friday’s meeting to reinforce Wildsight’s opinion about the controversial resort. The Jumbo Glacier resort has been debated for nearly two decades now.

He says that if the vote passes it will take the decision-making power of the local people and put it in the hands of government in Victoria, BC.

Bergenske also believes the vote to pass the decision off to the provincial government is strange because the process for Jumbo should be the same as any other rezoning project.

“It would basically be the very same process as any other major development,” said Bergenske. He says the rezoning decision has to have public input, something that may not happen if Victoria is in charge.

Despite the oddities surrounding the vote, Bergenske is confident the decision-making power will stay local.

“The RDEK does have a track record of not just handing over controversial issues,” said Bergenske.

Vice-President of Glacier Resorts Ltd. Grant Costello did not return calls for comment; however, he stated in a press release his support for the vote. He says that if the vote passes, a local government would be set up to govern the new municipality.

Jumbo Glacier is located 55 km west of Invermere BC. The proposed resort would be a $450 million project, and would be placed on the site of an old sawmill. The site was chosen for its previous use and the optimum snow conditions of the glacier. The resort would provide year-round skiing, boast 5,500 beds and 750 to 800 permanent full-time jobs.

The vote is set to take place at 9am in the RDEK board room. At the previous vote a crowd of over 60 filled the room and spilled out into the hallway. 16 delegates spoke on the topic, the normal amount being below three.

Annalee Grant
Kimberley Daily Bulletin
4 August 2009