With no development yet underway, the Jumbo Glacier Mountain Resort Municipality has little more to report this fall than the launch of a new website.
The council has not passed any major bylaws since September, but municipal staff are preparing an official community plan to present to council next spring. Staff and council are also working with the resort developer — Glacier Resorts Ltd. — on getting a building permit for the Farnham area.
The resort municipality’s new website (www.jgmrm.ca), designed by Radium Hot Springs-based tech company WenMar, went live in September.
At their October 15th council meeting — the most recent one held — the three-member council received a list of all expenses incurred from February 2013 to September 2013. Of the more than $67,000 in expenses, more than $15,000 was related to two lawsuits concerning Jumbo Glacier Resort or the municipality.
More than $10,000 was spent dealing with the West Kootenay Ecosociety’s petition for a judicial review of the municipality (arguing that creating a municipality with an appointed mayor and councillors violates the constitution and some provincial statues) and more than $5,000 related to the Ktunaxa First Nation’s application for judicial review, which argues that the resort infringes on an area the Ktunaxa consider sacred territory, known as Qat’muk, and impacts traditional religious activities involving grizzly bear spirits.
“These are challenges to the existence of the municipality and require careful attention,” said Jumbo mayor Greg Deck, who said the lawsuits take up money and time that council and staff would prefer to focus on other areas.
“Certainly we would rather be spending the money on advancing the mountain resort instead of dealing with these latest attempts to obstruct it,” he said. “But that’s not the situation that we enjoy yet.”
The Ktunaxa application will be in court starting on January 6th, 2014.
A year-round glacier ski resort near Valemount (west of Jasper) that bears many similarities to Jumbo Glacier Resort continues to proceed as well, but has so far generated much less debate than Jumbo. Phedias Project Management Corp., which is involved with Jumbo Glacier Resort, is also involved with Valemount Glacier Destinations Ltd.’s project.
After submitting a formal proposal for the resort in November 2012, the company was granted an interim agreement by the province in March 2013 and is currently developing a resort master plan.
Valemount mayor Andru McCracken said the Valemount Glacier Destination resort has not created the same controversy as Jumbo Glacier Resort because Valemount’s economy has been in rough shape since its sawmill shut down in 2006, then dismantled in 2009.
“Our economy has been undermined in every way you can imagine, so perhaps that has helped open our minds,” he said. “The resort presents an opportunity to do that in a way that can lighten the impact (since a ski resort’s impacts are much more concentrated compared with those of ATV tourism). We have no illusions that things are going to go back to the way they were, so we need to move forward.” The idea of the resort actually originated with Valemount residents, who then pitched it to developers, and a number of people see the proposed resort as a more environmentally sound route to developing tourism than increasing ATV visits (as other Valemount residents are keen to do).
Mr. McCracken says the developers have earned community support so far by focusing on how to mitigate potential problems associated with the resort, such as dramatically increasing housing prices, changing community character and increased traffic.
“Some of the support (for the resort) comes because it’s our community’s idea and in some ways, it’s on our terms,” he said. “It’s great to have a hand in your own destiny.”
Valemount Glacier Destination Ltd. board member and Phedias Project Management Corp. president Oberto Oberti has been the driving force behind developing the Jumbo resort for more than 23 years, and believes there is room for both of the projects, and several more.
“B.C. could easily use five of these unique destinations to revive its tourist industry — the Canadian share of the tourism industry has been shrinking for more than a decade — and to re-launch it into the international clientele,” he said in an email to the Valley Echo. “Valemount Glacier Destinations and Jumbo Glacier Resort could be compared with Jasper and Banff, which are in competition, maybe, but are also mutually beneficial, certainly. Valemount Glacier Destinations and Jumbo Glacier Resort are ideally located to complete a tour through Jasper and Banff Parks, one of the best tours in the world.”
“It is gratifying to be invited to do a project by the local community, as it happened in Golden,” he said.
“Valemount is similar to Golden because it has had a prior and unanimously accepted notation on the land for the ski resort project in the Premier Range, making it similar to an expansion project like in Golden,” continued Mr. Oberti.
“The result for the Jumbo Glacier Resort project was worth all 22 years of challenging government process and aggravation for the clients. The view of the Lake of the Hanging Glacier from Glacier Dome alone would make it worth waiting, and the four glaciers access of the Jumbo Glacier Resort is unique in the world,” he said.
In a November 2012 Globe and Mail story, Mr. Oberti was quoted saying “If I was to start now, I would say to my original clients to go to Valemont, not to this one,” in reference to Jumbo.
But Mr. Oberti has also gone on record saying that it would be feasible for one investor to back both projects.