Crystal Mountain's expansion project, appropriately located on Last Mountain, gets one last chance to succeed. If it doesn't go this time, the regional district will declare it over or send it back to square one.
A major expansion of the Crystal Ski and Golf Resort was first proposed in 2000, as a $125-million project over 20 years. At that time, about 4,000 beds were planned, in condos, hotels, chalets and townhouses, as well as an 18-hole golf course and new ski terrain with higher new lifts.
It took a while, but issues of water supply, sewage treatment and road upgrade were worked through, and the province approved the master plan in 2006. The project almost went through the regional district approval process and it looked ready to go, when the recession dealt its blow.
The project wasn't scrapped, but clearly money became the issue. The plan was downsized in 2011, from 1,200 to 418 beds for Phase 1, in a more modest collection of chalets, townhouses, condos, bed-and-breakfast and day lodge.
A regional district report said the new reality was "in recognition of the current economic climate and in order to optimize today's lower construction costs."
Still, it wasn't enough to jump-start the project. Since then, it has had several six-month extensions from the regional district while the principals try to get financing together. The resort is owned by the Tschanz family of Switzerland and associates.
Last year, it looked as if financing would fall into place when the Swiss-based investment group Agentura took a hard look at the project.
But it's not there yet, and Crystal's time has run out again.
Oberto Oberti of Pheidias Development Management Corporation, which handles the project for the Tschanz group, said in a recent letter, "This is to confirm that the Tschanz family and their associates have not been able to secure yet the necessary financing in the current economic environment, despite ongoing discussions with various contacts."
He said they are now looking at new avenues and contacts for financing.
"One difficulty is that most investors in their due diligence process come in contact with Canadian financial institutions that are negative regarding recreational and tourism developments. We hope that this will change soon," said Oberti.
Accordingly, Crystal applied for the seventh extension for rezoning of Phase 1.
The regional board was OK with granting this extension, but agreed at its latest meeting with concerns of Ron Fralick, planning manager. This has gone on so long, requirements of other agencies may have changed, and the regional district's own bylaws are under review, pointed out Fralick.
Coun. Cindy Fortin of Peachland is one local official keeping her eye on the project, saying, "It affects our watershed."
Mayor Keith Fielding of Peachland said, "They are optimistic the financing is almost in place, but I suspect this will be the last extension."
If financing doesn't come through this time and the extension runs out, and Crystal owners still want to press ahead, the regional board will require the process to restart from the beginning.