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Hartwicks renew allegations of criminal wrongdoing



RCMP reviewing documents relating to Powder Mountain development proposal

Powder Mountain proponents Nan and Dianne Hartwick haven’t given up.

The Hartwicks have handed over nearly 20 years of documents relating to the proposed development of Powder Mountain and RCMP are reviewing the material to determine if there is new information that warrants a criminal investigation.

The mother and daughter team allege criminal misconduct by members of the provincial government in the 1980s, when the rights to develop Powder Mountain as an alpine ski area were awarded to Callaghan Resorts. The Hartwicks believe their company, Powder Mountain Resorts, had won the development rights.

"Dianne and I are not giving up on our rights that were stolen from us," Nan Hartwick said this week. "We’ve got 20 years of our lives invested in this."

The RCMP began investigating the Hartwicks’ allegations in October of 2000. A special prosecutor was appointed to advise the RCMP’s commercial crime section in their review.

The review was completed in February of this year and no charges were laid.

However, Supt. Gordon McRae of the commercial crime section said this week the Hartwicks had presented "considerable documentation" which will be reviewed.

"We’ve seen some of it, some of it is alleged to be new," McRae said of the documents. "We want to be thorough."

McRae said he hoped to have a report on the review of the documents in the next three to four weeks.

In addition to the allegations of criminal misconduct the Hartwicks launched an unsuccessful law suit against former premier Bill Vander Zalm. In a 1999 trial the Harwicks alleged that Vander Zalm interfered with the public proposal process for developing Powder Mountain as a ski area in the late 1980s. They further alleged that former forest minister Jack Kempf was about to approve the Hartwicks’ Powder Mountain Resorts proposal when Vander Zalm overruled him and awarded development rights to a rival company, Callaghan Resorts.

At the 1999 trial the Hartwicks sought $2.3 million in damages plus interest, for a total of approximately $5 million.

The case was dismissed after a multi-week trial which saw testimony from Kempf, Vander Zalm, former cabinet minister Grace McCarthy and former NDP MLA Moe Sihota, B.C. Supreme Court Justice David Tysoe ruled the Hartwicks failed to make their case. Among Justice Tysoe’s findings was that Powder Mountain Resorts Ltd. was never in a contractual situation.

The Hartwicks appealed and presented their case in a two-day hearing in March of last year. On Oct. 24, 2001 a judgment was released by three B.C. Court of Appeal judges who dismissed the Hartwicks’ appeal.

Since the 1980s the Callaghan Valley area, which includes Powder Mountain, has become popular. A provincial park was created at the end of the valley in 1997, and commercial backcountry tenures within the valley have been awarded. The valley is the proposed site for Nordic events if Vancouver wins the right to host the 2010 Winter Olympics. And last week it was revealed the Callaghan is the preferred site for an Olympic athletes village. Whether the Olympic bid is successful or not, the province is expected to turn over the athletes village site to the municipality for use as affordable resident housing.