By Kelsey Verboom
The Regional District of East Kootenay has decided to maintain its current position on Jumbo Glacier Resort, voting to leave land-use and planning decisions up to the provincial government.
On Friday, June 8th, the district’s board of directors voted to uphold a decision made by the regional district directors in 2009 that asked the province to create a mountain resort municipality in the Jumbo valley. The 2009 motion also requested that the province take over control and decision-making when it came to the ski resort development, located 55 kilometres west of Invermere.
A motion to rescind the board’s previously stated position was brought forward on June 8th by Area G Director Gerry Wilkie.
The motion was narrowly defeated by a vote of 8-7 — the same vote tally as the 2009 motion.
Directors Wendy Booth (Area F), Dee Conklin (Radium), Rob Gay (Area C and chair of the board), Mary Giuliano (Fernie), Lois Halko (Sparwood), Dean McKerracher (Elkford), Heath Slee (Area B), and Mike Sosnowski (Area A) voted to uphold the 2009 decision.
Directors Gerry Taft (Invermere), Gerry Wilkie (Area G), Ute Juras (Canal Flats), Ron McRae (Kimberley),Wayne Stetski and Bob Whetham (Cranbrook), and Jane Walter (Area E), were in favour of reversing the 2009 decision.
Director Wilkie told The Pioneer last month that his motion was prompted by recent amendments to the Local Government Act — changes he said raise questions about public accountability in governance.
In May, the B.C. Legislature passed amendments to the Local Government Act that give the province the ability to create a Mountain Resort Municipality and appoint a mayor and council before there are any permanent residents. The amendments affect Jumbo, which could now be governed this way.
Before regional district board members began a heated debate on June 8th about whether to rescind or not to rescind, they heard from Joe Pierre of the Ktunaxa First Nation.
Mr. Pierre read from a letter written by Kathryn Teneese, Ktunaxa Nation Chair, which implored the board to reverse the 2009 motion and include the Ktunaxa Nation in decision-making about Jumbo.
Radium Mayor Dee Conklin, who voted against Director Wilkie’s motion, called the idea of reversing the board’s original decision “an embarrassment.”
“I do fully believe that you cannot change a motion after it has been acted on — and it has been acted on,” she said, adding that Jumbo’s Master Development Agreement was granted with the expectation that a Mountain Resort Municipality would follow.
“Those were our words, and that’s what we asked.” To change things now, she said, “is embarrassing as a director sitting here at this table.
“This board will lose total credibility if we rescind this,” Director Conklin concluded.
“I think we lost credibility when we passed this last motion [in 2009] by not going through the entire process,” responded Canal Flats Mayor, Ute Juras, who argued that the motion was about democracy, and not necessarily about Jumbo.
Invermere Mayor Gerry Taft disagreed with Mayor Conklin’s sentiments, saying every board has the right to revisit and change past decisions. The government model the province has approved for Mountain Resort Municipalities is “just crazy,” he said.
“On many levels, whether this is an initial tool just to rubber-stamp zoning, or whether it really is about creating a municipality in Jumbo forever, I think it’s a bad idea. And I think that our power to negotiate with the province, to find out what this is really about, is non-existent if we have a resolution on the books saying we support it. We don’t know what it is. How can we support it?”
Other directors around the table raised concerns that the staff of the regional district would be overwhelmed by the time and paperwork that accompanies planning such a large development.
“It would overwhelm us,” said Director Sosnowski (Area A). “We would, in my opinion, not be working for our constituents.”
The province signed a Master Development Agreement with the proponents of Jumbo Glacier Resort in March, granting it the go-ahead after 22 years.