The Valemount Glacier Destinations resort Master Plan has seen significant changes to its overall size and capacity, as the project slowly moves toward a decision from the province.
Tommaso Oberti — the resort’s designer — says the provincial government came to him about a month ago after finding a few loose ends on the project.
“They wanted a big reduction in the project’s scope and size, and we battled back on that,” says Oberti. “There has been a meeting of the minds.”
That meeting of the minds will see the resort’s capacity drop from roughly 18,000 to around 10,000 people, Oberti says, while reducing the resort’s recreational area from 8,000 hectares to 5,000 hectares.
Oberti cut 3,000 hectares by removing an optional chairlift and streamlining a few areas, he says.
“Not impacting the runs, or the project in any substantial way was key,” says Oberti. “We still have to complete the rezoning with the regional district.”
Oberti says the rezoning from regional district should happen within two months, and then VGD can start applying for permits.
In a regional district meeting at the end of June, Terry McEachen, general manager of development services for Regional District of Fraser-Fort George, told The Goat that the RDFFG passed a motion to receive a zoning bylaw pertaining to the proposed site of VGD.
“The zoning bylaw is the regulatory side of it,” said McEachen. “Now it’s had two readings, and goes to public hearing before the board can consider a third reading and adoption.”
The Official Community Plan (OCP) has been through two public hearings as well, and is waiting for VGD’s Master Plan to be approved by the provincial government.
The province now has everything they need, according to Oberti.
“We’ve basically come to an agreement on the technical issues they brought up, and we’re
waiting.” says Oberti. “The Province has been giving us signals for two months that a decision is imminent.”
The Province is working toward that decision, according to BC’s Ministry of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training.
The Province confirmed part of the Master Plan review process is consultations with the Simpcw First Nation, which are ongoing. Both Oberti and the Province want the agreement finished before the Province makes its decision.
“Additional resources have been added to move the project through the process as expeditiously as possible,” a ministry spokesperson says. “The ministry is very optimistic in working with the proponent and the First Nations, we can move forward with an environmentally sustainable project benefitting the region and province.”
However, the ministry added Master Plan review process can take up to 12 months, although they are working hard to finish early.
A report last week published by The Valley Sentinel emphasized a weeklong timeline on the provincial decision regarding VGD, but Oberti has told the Goat the timeline is nothing more than a hope.
If the regional district approves the rezoning, Oberti says the chairlift would be the first permit to go for, but in the meantime he’ll be working on permits for the access road, day lodge and restaurant at the top.
If the Province approves the plan even by November, Oberti says his ideal schedule can be met.
“We need to have a goalpost,” says Oberti. “We’re aiming for construction to start in the spring (2017), but the hotel and first subdivision wouldn’t start until spring/summer 2018.”
While Oberti admits hundreds of things could delay VGD, he doesn’t expect anything. However, his concern is that the longer the Province takes, the less likely investors will still be interested in the project.
“It’s not like they’re sitting with $80-90 million in the bank waiting for this project,” says Oberti. “If they time out, they may need to invest in something more productive or useful.”
Although there is a possibility he could hear of a decision this week, Oberti says he’s placing his emphasis on “hoping, rather than expecting.”