While many residents know and appreciate how unique it is to live in a mountain resort community, they might not know about the deal made with the province which made Sun Peaks what it is— and how it will go on for decades.
On April 13, 1993, Sun Peaks officially became a resort under the Commercial Alpine Ski Policy through an agreement between the province and SPR. The Master Development Agreement (MDA) between SPR and the province governs resort operations and developments on Crown land, which in turn led to the province and resort having a significant hand in how the community would grow.
The agreement between the province and Sun Peaks Resort LLP (SPR) is the reason why Sun Peaks Mountain Resort Municipality (SPMRM) has the only municipal council in B.C. without a completely elected board with one appointed councillor, general manager of SPR, Darcy Alexander.
The MDA is set as a 50-year term, and SPR must apply to the province any time it would like to build and purchase new lands, expand operations and develop the resort further, such as the new developments coming to the East Village.
Melanie Kilpatrick, spokesperson for the Ministry of Municipal Affairs, said MDAs are meant to be long-term because resorts are phased developments which require substantial investments over time to be successful. The original MDA helped to shape what would soon become the Sun Peaks residents and guests currently know.
In 1995, two years after Sun Peaks officially became a resort, the Sun Peaks Mountain Resort Improvement District was established so services such as fire protection, garbage collection and street lighting were provided to the community. The group was composed of four locally elected trustees and three provincially appointed trustees— one each from the provincial government, the resort corporation and the Thompson-Nicola Regional District (TNRD).
After a municipal incorporation study, public input and a referendum, the community officially became a Mountain Resort Municipality in 2010. The committee who worked on the incorporation study nominated Alexander for the appointed chair, as did the resort corporation.
“The creation of a resort is a significant and long-lasting decision,” Kilpatrick said. “The appointed councillor ensures the needs of a resort are considered as a community makes the transition to an elected local government.”
While Sun Peaks may be the only community with a provincially appointed councillor, it’s not the first.
“The Province has appointed councillors to municipal councils at times throughout B.C.’s history,” Kilpatrick said. “For example, the Resort Municipality of Whistler and the district municipality of Tumbler Ridge had appointed councillors during their early incorporation as well. In Whistler, the appointed councillor was a transitional measure and was in place for ten years.”
Sun Peaks mayor Al Raine said there are still several of the initial members of council who helped to shape the community, including Alexander.
“Ines Popig and Mario [Pozza] have been there from the inaugural council meeting, and so has Darcy Alexander— now that’s a different twist to the whole situation. We are the only municipality that has a provincially appointed councillor,” Raine explained.
Raine explained how the agreement between SPR and the province focuses on development in terms of beds built in relation to ski hill size, and how the land use and development processes must adhere to the agreement.
“When it comes to civil governance and ability to put Official Community Plans together and zoning together, many of those questions are already dictated by the agreement between the province and Sun Peaks,” Raine said. “So, we are not a normal municipality by any stretch of the imagination.”
Kilpatrick said the province likely won’t be re-appointing a councillor in the upcoming 2022 election.
“During the last re-appointment of Sun Peaks’ councillor in 2018, the Minister of Municipal Affairs advised the councillor and the municipality that this was the last anticipated re-appointment, and that a full council would likely be elected in 2022,” she said.
Kilpatrick noted that in both Whistler and Tumbler Ridge the appointed councillors helped with the transitional period of becoming a municipality. Now those municipalities are run by elected officials.While there may no longer be an appointed councillor after the upcoming election, SPR does have the option to renew and extend the MDA. Any changes to the MDA would require consultations with the public, stakeholders and local First Nations.
Kilpatrick said the ministry is committed to working with the municipality to determine how to support the needs of the growing community, both now and in the future.