06/18/2015 06:12 EDT | Updated 06/18/2016 05:59 EDT

Jumbo Glacier Resort Sees B.C. Environmental Certificate Pulled By Province

Jumbo Glacier Resort's environmental certificate has lapsed because it did not meet provincial requirements on starting construction.

Judith Lavoie

VANCOUVER - Developers of a controversial billion-dollar ski resort that has been decades in the making will have "to start from scratch," said British Columbia's environment minister.

The provincial government announced Thursday that the environmental assessment certificate for Jumbo Glacier Resort had expired.

The resort, which has been repeatedly challenged in court by First Nations and environmental groups, received its first environmental certificate in 2004.

The certificate was extended in 2009, with an expiry date of Oct. 12, 2014, but the extension document stated all approved projects must be "substantially started" under provincial law within the time limit set out, something that Environment Minister Mary Polak said just hasn't happened.

"In making my decision, I had focused on the physical activities that had taken place at the project site," said Polak. "While it is clear that some construction has started, I was not convinced that the physical activity undertaken as of Oct. 12, 2014, meets the threshold of a substantially started project."

Resort spokesman Tommaso Oberti, vice-president of the Pheidias Group, said in an emailed statement that directors are reviewing the minister's decision but can take a number of courses of action.

"Jumbo Glacier Resort would be the premier ski destination on the continent, and the recent poor winter showed us why, in the age of global warming, new ski resorts should be built at appropriate elevations and in the right climate zones," he said.

A document listing Polak's reasons stated the developers had undertaken nine projects on the site as of Oct. 12, 2014.

They included a slab and foundation preparations on the day lodge, a slab on the service building, foundation anchors for the quad chairlift, and temporary and permanent bridges on a forest service road. Workers also drilled and tested a well for potable water and improved about four kilometres of the service road.

When built out, the resort's base would have been 104 hectares in size, boasted a hotel with 6,250 "bed units," as well as condominiums and related amenities, the document stated.

"They don't posses a certificate, whether or not the project is dead is a matter of whether or not the proponents decide to start over again in the process. I mean that's an option open to them. That's not a decision for me to make at this point."

She said developers would have "to start from scratch."

Polak said B.C. ministries responsible for communities, forests, lands and natural resources will now have to analyze their next step.

The B.C. government granted municipal status to Glacier Resorts in November 2012, appointing a three-member council and providing a quarter million dollars as a budget.

Opposition New Democrat Leader John Horgan said Jumbo was a bad idea from the beginning and he called on the government to stop spending money on a community without any residents.

"The good news today for the people of the Kootenays is Jumbo will remain wild. Now, the next step is let's not pretend there’s a town there because there isn't," Horgan said.

Joe Foy, of the environmental group Wilderness Committee, called the decision "great news," and said the government must now grant the area protected status so another proposal doesn't endanger wildlife.

"We knew this project was already on thin ice," he said.


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