The Regional District of East Kootenay has voted to leave the governance of the proposed Jumbo Glacier Resort with the provincial government.

Board keeps Jumbo Glacier Resort status quo

The regional district still wants the province to look after land-use decisions for the proposed resort.

The Regional District of East Kootenay has decided to leave its position on Jumbo as it is.

On Friday (June 8), the board of directors upheld its August 2009 decision to ask the province to create a mountain resort municipality in the Jumbo Valley, 55 kilometres west of Invermere, where a four-season ski resort is planned.

Gerry Wilkie, director of Area G for the regional district, brought forward a motion asking the board to rescind the 2009 decision. After an hour of debate, seven directors were in favour of taking back control of Jumbo land-use decisions. But eight directors were opposed, so the 2009 decision stands.

Directors Wayne Stetski and Bob Whetham (Cranbrook), Ron McRae (Kimberley), Jane Walter (Area E), Gerry Taft (Invermere), Ute Juras (Canal Flats) and Gerry Wilkie (Area G) were in favour of reversing the 2009 decision.

Directors Rob Gay (Area C and chair of the board), Heath Slee (Area B), Wendy Booth (Area F), Dee Conklin (Radium), Mike Sosnowski (Area A), Mary Giuliano (Fernie), Lois Halko (Sparwood) and Dean McKerracher (Elkford) voted to support the 2009 decision.

Before the board voted, the directors heard a plea from the Ktunaxa Nation to take back governance of Jumbo.

Joe Pierre Jr. read a letter by Kathryn Teneese, Ktunaxa Nation Chair.

“Jumbo Glacier is located in the area that the Ktunaxa Nation calls Qat’muk. It is in the heart of Ktunaxa territory and is the home of the grizzly bear spirit as well as many living grizzly bears,” Pierre read. “Ktunaxa opposition is rooted in our cultural knowledge and spiritual teachings of Qat’muk.

“Rescinding this resolution will provide them a chance to be heard in the local decision-making process.”

The directors then debated back and forth, with some feeling that the pressure on the regional district — if it took on Jumbo land-use decisions — would be too much, while others felt the board needed to stand behind its 2009 decision on principle. Those in favour of rescinding were concerned by the untested mountain resort municipality designation.

The Columbia Valley directors were split on the issue, with Booth and Conklin feeling the board should stand by its decision, while Wilkie, Taft and Juras thought it was a question of democracy.

“This board will lose total credibility if we rescind this,” said Conklin.

“I think we lost credibility when we passed this last motion (in 2009) by not going through the entire process,” responded Juras.

Gerry Taft said that allowing the province to create a mountain resort municipality in Jumbo is like signing a contract without reading it first.

“Perhaps the manageable amount of time and energy that this organization might need to invest if we were the body that considered governance and land-use applications in the Jumbo valley is worth that investment compared to the automatic rubber stamping of zoning that would occur in an appointed mountain resort municipality.”

Gerry Wilkie said the issue comes down to public input for Columbia Valley residents.

“This is about consultation and the people of the East Kootenay having a say in the potential development that will have major concerns for our socio-economic and environmental life in the valley.”

Cranbrook’s mayor Wayne Stetski pointed out he wasn’t on the board back in 2009 since he was elected in 2011, but if he had been, he would have voted against the motion.

“The board is capable of dealing with difficult land-use decisions. I always thought this decision should have remained right here at this table,” said Stetski.

Cranbrook councillor Bob Whetham said the workload accompanying Jumbo decisions shouldn’t be a consideration.

“It seems we are talking about a major land-use decision going forward on the basis of the procedural challenges, rather than whether it’s an appropriate decision to make, and I don’t think that’s the way we should make decisions,” he said.

But over in the Elk Valley, directors were all opposed to rescinding the motion.

“If resolutions keep being made and rescinded, what weight do any of them ever really have?” asked Mary Giuliano.

Mike Sosnowski said he was elected to look after his constituents in Area A first and foremost.

“To add any more of this work from Jumbo to us would just flood us. We would become, in my opinion, not working for all our constituents.”

Although the board decided to support the creation of a mountain resort municipality, it did vote 12-3 to ask for more input. The board wants the province to consult the regional district and First Nations prior to creating a mountain resort municipality at Jumbo.

Back in August 2009, the vote was split 8-7 as well, when the majority of the board felt the responsibility would be too onerous for regional district staff and would take up too much time that could be spent on other regional projects.

The province signed a Master Development Agreement with the proponents of Jumbo Glacier Resort in March, giving it the green light to go ahead after 22 years.

On May 9, the B.C. legislature passed amendments to the Local Government Act that would allow the province to create a mountain resort municipality for Jumbo and appoint a mayor and council before there were any permanent residents.

— Sally MacDonald, Cranbrook Daily Townsman

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