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Jumbo could be next resort municipality

Regional district turns decision over to province in 8-7 vote

After nearly 20 years of debate the Regional District of the East Kootenays has turned responsibility for the proposed Jumbo Glacier Resort over to the province, asking that a separate mountain resort municipality be created for the project.

In an 8-7 vote on July 31, the board of directors of the regional district asked the province to create a new municipality "to be governed by a council of local citizens, supported by a locally based advisory group that includes First Nations.

The Shuswap First Nation has supported the idea, but the Ktunaxa consider the Jumbo area, 55 km west of Invermere, sacred and oppose the plan.

The province has yet to comment.

Glacier Resorts Ltd., which is behind the proposed $450 million resort, supports the regional district's move.

"(We think) reasonable people and reasonable government should select the best option and we think that is what we've done," Grant Costello, vice-president of Glacier Resorts Ltd., told the CBC.

However, the environmental group Wildsight feels the decision is a disaster.

"This is a big stab in the back to people from the region who want to actually be engaged in local decision-making," John Bergenske of Wildsight said.

A poll conducted by Wildsight last November found 63 per cent of Kootenay residents opposed to the Jumbo development.

The Jumbo proposal for a ski resort came forward in the early 1990s. The project received an Environmental Certificate in 2004 and a resort master plan was approved in 2007. Glacier Resorts has been waiting for local zoning approval before entering into a master development agreement with the province.

A majority of the board of directors felt the project was too big for the regional district to handle.

Plans for Jumbo Resort foresee development in three phases. At buildout the resort would include 5,500 tourist beds, 750 beds for staff, and 23 ski lifts.