Swiss investment group shows interest in Crystal Mountain expansion

A Swiss-based investment group seems keen on financing a much-anticipated expansion of Crystal Mountain Resort.

A Swiss-based investment group seems keen on financing a much-anticipated expansion of Crystal Mountain Resort.

The group, Agentura, visited the resort this summer and plans to return in the coming months to observe winter operations.

“They’re hoping to become the new major investor in the project,” said Ron Fralick, manager of current planning for the Regional District of the Central Okanagan.

“So far they like what they see…(Crystal Mountain) seems fairly confident that this group is going to invest in the project. They’re hoping to get final approval sometime in the spring so they can get phase one going as soon as the snow has gone off the mountain.”

Plans for Crystal Mountain expansion are not new.

The zoning amendment bylaw received first reading by the Regional Board March 17, 2008. Prior to that, the resort had a master development agreement approved by the province.

Since then, the Regional District has granted several six-month extensions to allow the applicant to complete all necessary requirements.

According to Fralick, the “big issue” has always been money, especially with the state of the economy over the past few years.

Another part of the problem is that the resort does not own the land.

“I think they were  going to have trouble getting financing even if the economy was good, because the banks just don’t want to touch resort-type developments on Crown land.

“In this particular case, they’re hoping this investment group will be the key to their success in getting phase one going.”

Fralick said the proposed Crystal Mountain expansion has received more extensions than any other application to come across the Regional Board’s desk.

The Regional Board was unanimous in its decision to extend the application again. Fralick noted that the decision was largely based on the fact no major bylaws or fees had changed in relation to the proposal.

“If it was a different circumstance and those monies (had) substantially changed, we might have gone to the board and said we recommend no further extensions, they start over and they be subject to the new fees.

“To this point there’s been no reason to recommend that to the board.”

West Kelowna Mayor Doug Findlater said the “new signs of life” regarding the application were reason enough to give Crystal Mountain more time to secure funding.

“There’s been some tire-kicking lately related to this, that’s why it’s a good thing to extend it,” said Findlater

In August, 2011, the resort expressed an intent to reduce the density of the original expansion plans because they had been unsuccessful in securing financing.

Now that Agentura has shown an interest in investing, reductions to the original plans may not be necessary.

“I think the intent now with this new investment group is to still proceed with the entire phase one and not reduce the density—but that option is available to them right up to final reading,” said Fralick.

Oberto Oberti, president of Pheidias Development Management Corporation—the agent working on behalf of Crystal Mountain—said he is “very pleased” the Regional District granted another extension for the fourth reading of the rezoning application.

“We are confident that by next summer we will see renewed activity for the expansion project,” said Oberti.

“The project is still planned according to the approved master plan, official community plan and rezoning application.”

If all goes according to plan, Oberti’s prediction will likely be correct.

But Mother Nature might have the biggest say in the future of the resort.

“I guess from their perspective, they better hope for a good winter season when the investment group shows up to have a look at the ski hill operation this winter,” said Fralick.

wpaterson@kelownacapnews.com