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Posted: February 27, 2013

DOI asking UBCM to push its stand against Jumbo municipality

The District of Invermere wants the Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) to stand by a resolution passed last September that in part states opposition to “the concept of an unelected body making land use decisions for an area with no population” in regards to the recently initiated Jumbo Glacier Resort Municipality (JGRM).

District council last night approved a motion calling on the UBCM to stand by Resolution B55, passed during the 2012 annual convention, and seek intervention status in the pending legal challenge by the West Kootenay Community EcoSociety against JGRM.

Council voted three to one to pass the motion made by Mayor Gerry Taft, resulting in an outburst of applause by most seated in the packed council chambers Feb. 26.

Coun. Justin Atterbury was the lone vote opposed to the motion, with Coun. Greg Anderson absent from the meeting.

Atterbury said he is concerned about council spending too much time worrying about Jumbo and about the district losing out on funding and grant dollars from the provincial government because it is annoyed with the town for its position on the proposed $500 million to $1 billion resort proposal for the upper Jumbo Creek Valley, 55 km west of Invermere.

“My fear is poking the government in the eye. I worry about not getting the money we need because we are constantly pissing them off,” Atterbury told council. “I think we are trying to push a string up hill. I don’t think we are spending our time wisely.”

Mayor Gerry Taft

Taft said part of the intent of his motion is to get the UBCM involved and separate Invermere a bit from coming across as a constant challenge to Jumbo “to try and make this bigger than just Invermere hating Jumbo. I don’t think we are the lone voice but sometimes I think it is perceived we are.”

Taft said his motion is all about being opposed to a non-elected council overseeing a town with no people, with a representative on the Regional District of East Kootenay board.

“It’s basic democratic principles,” he said.

His full motion:

“WHEREAS The Resolution B55 was endorsed by the vast majority of delegates at the 2012 UBCM convention;

AND WHEREAS the response provided by the Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development does not address the concerns and clear position taken by the membership of UBCM;

AND WHEREAS The recently created Jumbo Glacier Mountain Resort Municipality will not be eligible for membership to the Union of British Columbia Municipalities because the council is not elected, thereby violating the position taken by B55, generally undermining the reputation and credibility of British Columbia Local Governments, and destroying the 100% membership of local governments record the UBCM is very proud of having;

AND WHEREAS The West Kootenay Community EcoSociety has submitted a petition to court requesting a judicial review of the constitutionality of and the consultation around the creation of a municipality without an electorate or population and with an appointed council, and that this issue directly affects local governments and the UBCM;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED The UBCM executive be encouraged to waive the normal policy of the UBCM not being involved in legal issues until the appeal process, and the UBCM submit an application to the Supreme Court of British Columbia seeking intervention status in the case between the EcoSociety and the Province of British Columbia and Jumbo Glacier Mountain Resort Municipality;

AND THAT IT FURTHER BE RESOLVED That every local government of British Columbia be sent this resolution and asked to send their support for the UBCM to be involved in this important legal proceeding, and that they be encouraged to express their concern to the Government of the Province of British Columbia for the precedent set by establishing a municipality with no population and with an appointed council.”

Coun. Spring Hawes

Coun. Spring Hawes said she doesn’t believe council is wasting time or taxpayer money by taking an active interest in the issue.

“All we are doing is asking them (UBCM) to follow up. It doesn’t take a lot of time or discussion.”

She also takes umbrage to the notion that the province would punish Invermere for challenging it.

“If that is actually true – it tells us a lot about our provincial government,” she said.

Coun. Paul Denchuk agreed. “If that is the case – please don’t vote for them (Liberals),” he urged the packed gallery. “We’re not sitting here talking about Jumbo all the time.”

Taft added, “In my mind it hasn’t taken any time away from our good work. That’s how local government works. This isn’t requiring any staff time.”

Atterbury argued the issue is taking a lot of council’s “energy. I’d like us to focus on other things. I think it’s a distraction.”

Denchuk agreed that Jumbo is a distraction.

Coun. Paul Denchuk

“It’s always on peoples’ minds,” he said, because it persists despite constant local opposition proven by results in “election after election.”

Denchuk said the province has in turn proven it can’t be trusted by local government officials, pointing at Kootenay East MLA and Minister of Community, Sport and Cultural Development Bill Bennett as an example.

“He assured us there would be money in place before” they (province) created the municipality, and it appears there is little or no money available for the developers to proceed with their plans thus far.

“How do you trust a guy like that?” Denchuk asked.

Atterbury argued that Invermere’s opposition has become the Village of Radium Hot Springs’ benefit. The district would have been better off being the partnering municipality with JGRM to ensure joint planning and cooperation, as Invermere will be the gateway to the proposed resort community.

“I think we’re at the losing end of the stick and we are going to pay for this for a long time,” he said.

Taft pushed that his motion is all about “the principle” of the issue; that the government has created a formal town in the wilderness without residents or buildings in place, and has appointed people to operate as a municipality, even though there is no clear picture how or when people will actually start living in Jumbo or if a shovel will ever turn dirt.

Panorama Mountain Village is about to turn 50, he reminded council, and noted that one would be “lucky” if the community 18 km west of Invermere had 60 full-time residents.

He said he wants to move the Jumbo discussion from opposition to the resort to “focus on municipalities without people.”

The UBCM spoke volumes when it almost unanimously passed resolution B55 last September, Taft said. Support for B55 was “in the 95% range” of UBCM members voting in support of it, opposing “an appointed council.”

The following is the resolution passed by the UBCM:

“WHEREAS regional districts are a legal and accepted form of local government in BC elected by rural communities to represent an manage the land-use and development interests of local taxpayers;

AND WHEREAS the creation of a resort municipality within an electoral area and appointment of a council directed by a resort developer is contrary to the principles of democratic government and sets an undesirable precedent:

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that UBCM ask the Ministry of Community, Sport & Cultural Development to consider a governance structure for mountain resort municipalities that includes elected representatives responsible for land-use decisions for a permanent population of at least 200 people;

AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that UBCM does not support the concept of an unelected body making land use decisions for an area with no population.”

Taft further argued that the UBCM should be insulted by the process that followed in the wake of Jumbo receiving provincial government approvals.

“It’s a slap in the face of the UBCM” that it was not consulted when the provincial government amended the Local Government Act to allow for the creation of the resort municipality, he said, referring to Minister Bennett’s response to the UBCM resolution as being disrespectful to the UBCM’s stated goal of having 100% of its membership being elected bodies.

“The Local Government Act was amended in 2012 to clarify existing government policy in relation to the authority to incorporate a mountain resort municipality whether or not there are residents in the area at the time of the incorporation. The 2012 amendments ensure the effectiveness of the 2007 Local Government Act amendments related to the incorporation of mountain resort municipalities in certain circumstances,” Bennett stated in his response.

“Municipal incorporation of an area prior to the arrival of residents is not new in British Columbia. In fact, many existing British Columbia communities were incorporated prior to having stable resident populations, such as Tumbler Ridge, Elkford and Logan Lake. While those communities were incorporated in relation to resource development, government supports the use of a similar approach to enhance mountain resort development.

“Incorporating an area prior to the arrival of residents means that a mayor and council need to be appointed by government until such time as a stable resident population is established within the incorporation area. Appointments to council have been used previously in British Columbia in several resource based communities and in all of those communities, appointed individuals were replaced with elected council members as the communities grew and stable resident populations were established.

“While the concerns expressed in this resolution relating to the form of such an incorporation are noted, government remains of the view that incorporating an area prior to the arrival of residents can, in limited circumstances, support the early development of mountain resorts by providing the strong foundations necessary for well planned resort communities with high quality services and public amenities,” Bennett stated.

Before calling the vote on his motion, Taft concluded that at the end of the day, the democratic process is what matters most and he questions how a mayor and council that is appointed by government to serve a developer by creating municipal guidelines and goalposts that will be designed to benefit the developer only, can be allowed to join an elected body such as the RDEK.

As a locally elected government official, “If you don’t have an open mind going into a public hearing you are in trouble,” he said, but that won’t apply to the Jumbo council.

Ian Cobb/e-KNOW

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