Land and Water B.C. will become the central agency responsible for co-ordinating all development applications on Crown land under the provinces new resort strategy.
The implementation of the resort strategy, announced Tuesday in Kelowna, includes the establishment of a new, transparent application process for resort development within Land and Water B.C., with established timelines for specific outcomes. Land and Water B.C. should become this central agency by July 2005.
"We have to bring all of the stakeholders to the table very early in the process," said Sandy Santori, minister of state for resort development.
"Investors should know early in the process what their challenges are. We feel that we can do that and by no means compromise environmental standards or the principles around environmental sustainability."
Currently anyone who wishes to develop a resort must go through several government approval processes as well as environmental hurdles and application processes put in place by local and regional governments. The result is a time-consuming, often duplicated, and expensive linear process.
Under the proposed strategy developers would simply put their application into land and Water B.C. and reviews would be done concurrently by all stakeholders. Discussions around this are on going and, said Santori, it looks like everyone is on board with the idea.
"We have already signed a memorandum of understanding with Union of B.C. Municipalities to work together to harmonize our processes in order to do things more efficiently," he said.
Its hoped the outcome will be developers who keep their investment money in B.C.
"We need to create an environment that is conducive to investment," said Santori. "We want to provide certainty and certainty sometimes means certainly not. But to an investor that is not an issue as long as that certainly not comes very early in the process. Then he or she can move on to the next project in B.C. as opposed to becoming totally discouraged and leaving the province and investing their money elsewhere."
Part of creating certainty is also building better relationships with First Nations communities, said Santori. To that end a guide will be produced in the spring of 2005 to assist developers.
Last year the B.C. Resort Task Force was charged with identifying weaknesses and strengths to resort investment. Resorts are an important factor in the provincial governments goal of doubling tourism by 2015. The province anticipates more than $1.2 billion in new private sector investment and expansion of existing resorts over the next five years.
The resort task force released its recommendations this past summer. This week Santori announced the action plan to implement those recommendations. The action plan includes:
Improving transportation infrastructure through upgraded highways, expanded regional airports, improved ferries and terminals, third party tourist trains and a continued review and updating of highway signage.
Increasing resort development by supporting expansion through a New Master Development Agreement and marketing it directly to investors trough partnerships with Tourism B.C.
Support Resort Communities by developing best practices for developers, local government and communities and considering future changes to legislation to support the transition from "resort" to "resort community".
The strategy was meet with enthusiasm from many in the tourism sector.
"We believe this will be highly beneficial to the tourism industry of British Columbia and enhance its position internationally," said Jimmie Spencer president of the Canada West Ski Areas Association.
Said Dave Brownlie, Chief Operating Officer for Whistler Blackcomb: "This will help our newer, up and coming resorts in British Columbia and I think it is very, very positive. B.C. has a lot to offer to the tourism industry."