Jumbo opponents celebrate; developers vow to continue in wake of court decision

Jumbo Resort opponents gathered to celebrate the B.C. Court of Appeal’s decision.

Jumbo Glacier Resort opponents celebrated last week’s court ruling as another nail in the coffin for the long proposed resort, gathering for a festive party on Monday, even as project developers vow not to throw in the towel yet.

The proposed resort has been at the centre of a protracted battle for nearly 30 years, and the latest chapter came on Tuesday, August 6th when a panel of three B.C. Court of Appeals judges ruled two-to-one to to uphold former Environment Minister Mary Polak’s 2015 decision that the resort was not “substantially started” in time, and consequently cancelling its environmental assessment certificate (see last week’s Pioneer).

That decision prompted Jumbo Wild supporters to rejoice Monday, August 12th during a night of music and a potluck at the Akisqnuk Arbour in Windermere, where those gathered predicted a bleak future for the resort.

“Now we’re more optimistic than we’ve ever been,” Jumbo Creek Conservation Society Jim Galloway told the Pioneer. “When it was announced that we had won, I was just jubilant. We all were.”

Leading up to the August 6th decision, “we were on pins and needles,” he recalled. “The two judges that ruled in our favour, they were definitely adamant that there was no substantial start. We knew that, but the big question was did they know that.”

Although Glacier Resort Ltd. can appeal the B.C. Court of Appeal’s decision in the Supreme Court of Canada, Mr. Galloway doesn’t think it will even “get past the (Supreme Court’s) permission stage.” Glacier Resort Ltd. can also push the project forward by proceeding with a much smaller version of the resort (one with 1,999 or fewer beds does not require an environmental assessment certificate) but Mr. Galloway suspects that a scaled-down version of the resort would cost developers “a tremendous amount of money and they would have to start proceedings all over again.” And Mr. Galloway said if Jumbo starts the process over it could take another 20 to 30 years “because we’d be fighting them all the way.”

But resort proponents indicated that all those options may indeed be on the table.

Jumbo Glacier Resort architect Oberto Oberti told the Pioneer that although plans for a 6,000-bed resort have been compromised, a scaled-down version of the original plan “would be a potentially preferred option,” adding that is in fact “more in tune with original intent of the project.” It was “not our clients who wanted the 6,000 beds,” Mr. Oberti said, outlining that it was the provincial government that wanted the project to encompass a greater use of land.

And a 6,000-bed resort could still be in the cards, according to Mr. Oberti, pointing out that one of the three judges in the B.C. Court of Appeal panel believed the project had been substantially started, adding that “the opinion of dissenting judge” will likely be used by Glacier Resor Ltd’s lawyers to appeal the decision, taking it to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Whether Glacier Resorts Ltd. takes the route of the Supreme Court or opts for a scaled-down version of Jumbo Glacier Resort “depends on which one is more complicated,” Mr. Oberti told the Pioneer.

Resort opponents at Monday night’s celebration were undampened in their enthusiasm, with local conservationist Pat Morrow saying he doesn’t think Glacier Resorts Ltd. has enough gas in the tank to keep fighting, and that he doesn’t believe anything less than 2,000 beds could be economically feasible.

“It’s absolutely dead in the water and there’s no investor that would touch it with a 20-foot pole,” said Mr. Morrow, later adding “this decision will help to bolster our region’s vastly diminished patchwork of wildlife habitat while offering a place for the young people of our development-besieged Valley to seek solitude.”

Jumbo Glacier Mountain Resort Municipality mayor Greg Deck outlined to the Pioneer that the municipal arm of the project is not affected in any major way by last week’s news. “The municipality exists at the discretion of the province,” said Mr. Deck. “If there is a way to move the project forward in a way that requires the municipality to continue, my commitment to the project hasn’t changed.”

Unbending commitment was a common response to last week’s Appeal Court decision, on all sides of the issue. Environmentalist Kay Forsythe said, during Monday’s celebration, that she feels the battle of Jumbo Valley has been won, but added the environment will always need guardians and pledged to keep up the fight.

“As long as there’s an undammed valley in the world, there’s going to be somebody who wants to dam it,” said Ms. Forsythe. “So there’s always work to do.”

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