Jumbo lawsuit gains momentum

The City of Nelson passed a unanimous resolution on Monday expressing concern regarding the Jumbo Municipality. The resolution asks the Union of BC Municipalities to intervene in the West Kootenay EcoSociety’s lawsuit challenging the unpopulated municipality high in the Purcell Mountains. The province established the city and appointed a city council in February in order to allow the development of a controversial ski resort.

Councilor Candace Batycki brought the motion to the table and the council agreed to a special session in order to approve it. “Although the environmental issues around Jumbo are important, I supported the resolution because the municipality compromises the democratic process,” said Councilor Paula Kiss.

Nelson is the latest of several municipalities to pass similar motions ahead of the Union’s executive meeting this week.  The District of Invermere started the ball rolling with a resolution in late February, and it sent letters to every municipality in the province. Since then, the municipalities of New Denver, Clearwater, Maple Ridge, and Smithers have passed similar resolutions. The Lower Mainland Local Government Association has also asked the provincial body to get involved in the case.  

The Union, which represents all the cities in the province, has already passed a resolution in September protesting the province’s move to allow municipalities with no residents.

“I’m not surprised that the issue is resonating with cities across the province. Real city councilors have a mandate to represent citizens and residents,” said EcoSociety Director David Reid. “The Jumbo council’s constituency is a single real estate developer.  The whole process is a blow to democracy and an insult to elected councilors everywhere.”

The EcoSociety’s lawsuit argues that the municipality is unconstitutional because it doesn’t have any residents, and the municipal council was not elected.  The Province will respond to the lawsuit by April 25, while the UBCM will be considering the resolution to intervene in the case the same day.

The Jumbo Valley has been targeted for a resort since 1992. The current proposal aims to build a small city, with 6300 hotel and condominium beds and 21 ski lifts. Residents of the Kootenays have consistently supported keeping the Jumbo Valley wild based on its outstanding environmental, economic, and cultural values.