Despite the suggestion from Ms. Verboom’s May 11th editorial, District of Invermere council is devoting full energy to items that matter to Invermere.
Some items, like renewal of our infrastructure are based on realities within our boundaries and require a significant amount of staff time. Other issues like sub-regional recreation, economic development, and planning for Lake Windermere cross jurisdictional lines and take time and energy from staff and elected officials (from both DOI and neighbouring local governments).
Other more political issues (which I believe are also very important to Invermere) — like long-term land use in the Columbia Valley, the development options for Grizzly Ridge Properties, and the governance of the Jumbo Valley — are advocacy issues where council may not have the final decision, but can take positions and help influence the outcome.
These advocacy issues require a bit of time and energy from council, but do not generally require any work from staff. To suggest that the hour-long discussion on Jumbo governance and the concept of appointed Mountain Resort Municipalities took away time or energy from any other item, is completely untrue.
Nothing was dropped from the council meeting, nothing was added to the list of strategic priorities for council or the work plan for our staff, we simply had a meeting which went an hour longer and resulted in a decision to advocate our position on governance in Jumbo and the concept of appointed Mountain Resort Municipalities.
I don’t view debating the governance of Jumbo as “throwing a stick at the train”, but rather, asking, “Is the train going in the right direction, and who is driving the train?”
I think that the concept of an appointed council with no residents, and no services to provide, and with the only purpose of rubber stamping zoning which both the developer and the province are too nervous to have go before the public and elected officials (like any other development would), should concern people.
In 2004, when the Jumbo Glacier Resort proposal was granted an Environmental Assessment Certificate, one of the key conditions was that, “The Proponent must obtain the appropriate zoning and other necessary approvals for the Project from the Regional District of East Kootenay prior to commencement of construction of the Project.”
The headline of the press release from the province, when the Environmental Assessment decision was announced, stated, “Province says ultimate Jumbo decision up to region”. What happened to the promise of local input on zoning? If that promise can be broken, then what other promises can be broken?
When (not if) the developer requests changes to the zoning and “master plan”, who makes the decision, and what chance does the public have to comment on it?
A proposal for a densely developed, boutique, year-round ski resort with hotels could quickly morph into a sprawling backcountry real estate development with no commercial accommodation and surprisingly few ski lifts, few jobs, and few economic benefits.
Land zoning is a powerful tool: it can instantly increase the value of land and make land speculators quick profits — but despite the suggestion in Ms. Verboom’s editorial, it does not automatically create business. Whether it is a gas bar or the real estate development beside a ski hill, the zoning does not guarantee that business will be created: several Invermere examples to prove the point include Vista Del Lago and Lake Windermere Resort.
Let’s keep municipalities elected, rezoning processes public, and council meetings exciting (even if sometimes they are an hour longer).
Mayor of Invermere