The ongoing saga of attempts to build a year-round resort at a glacier in southern B.C. is back in the courts as the developer is seeking to quash a decision from the provincial government that ground the project to a halt.
In 2015, the provincial government determined that the Jumbo Glacier Mountain Resort was not ‘substantially started’, which led to the expiration of an Environmental Assessment Certificate — a specialized permit that the proponent needs in order to resume the development.
The EAC expired after then-Environment Minister Mary Polak determined enough work hadn’t been completed, however, the proponents — Glacier Resorts Ltd —say it was due to factors beyond their control.
In their petition to the court, Glacier Resorts Ltd says a Master Development Plan wasn’t approved until 2012 — five years after the initial term of the EAC and three years into an extension period. The proponent also complained that the province didn’t create a municipality — which regulates land use planning through zoning — until that same year.
Construction was also limited due to short windows within the summer which was hampered by the proposed resort’s remote location, according to the court filing.
The project proposes a 5,500 bed units over a 110 hectare resort base area with ski lift access to four glaicers 53 kilometres west of Invermere.
The matter is being heard out of Vancouver Supreme Court in front of Justice Carla Forth over the next three days.
There are two parallel issues when it comes to the proposed Jumbo Glacier Resort.
In addition to the substantially started designation, there’s also opposition from local Indigenous and environmental groups.
The Ktunaxa Nation Council took the issue to the Supreme Court of Canada, arguing that the province did not adequately provide appropriate consultation before approving the Master Development Plan.
Additionally, the Ktunaxa argued that the the location of the proposed ski resort sits in a spiritually sensitive area known as Qat’muk that is home to the Grizzly Bear Spirit, which serves as a source of guidance and strength.
Canada’s highest court unanimously agreed that the province had adequately consulted with the Ktunaxa during the Master Development Plan process, however, two justices dissented on the religious freedom aspect after determining religious freedom would be violated with the construction of a resort.
Glacier Resorts look to quash substantially started decision
At the time the substantially started decision was made, completed work included the pouring of concrete slabs for a day lodge and service building at the base of the resort.
In the petition to quash the decision, the proponents argued that the provincial government imposed a standard that was impossible to obtain, given regulatory constraints.
The filing also accused Minister Polak of bias, given her friendship with Kathryn Teneese, the chair of the Ktunaxa Nation Council.
A response filed by the provincial government disagreed with Glacier Resorts’ assessment.
“While it is evident that Glacier has faced a number of significant challenges, especially in terms of plans and permitting, the jurisprudence of this Court is clear that ‘substantially started’ is to be assessed with reference to the construction of the physical works,” reads the response filed by lawyers representing the Ministry of Environment. “In this case, very little physical progress has been made towards the project.”
The proposed resort has also generated opposition from local environmental groups, such as Wildsight, who applied as interveners to the case earlier this month.
The construction of a resort would cause widespread harm to the environment and local communities, according to a press release issued by Wildsight.
Ecojustice is representing Wildsight and the Jumbo Creek Conservation Society’s intervener positions in the case.
“If built, the Jumbo Glacier Resort would fragment a critical section of one of North America’s most important wildlife corridors,” says Robyn Duncan, the executive director for Wildsight. “Grizzlies depend on this connected habitat to maintain healthy populations regionally and even continentally.”