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Whistler's Mayor surprised at large legal bill for asphalt case

BC Assessment recommending reduction in values at some homes in Cheakamus



Whistler Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden said she was surprised to learn that it cost the municipality almost $600,000 to date in the legal challenge to move the asphalt plant at the Cheakamus Crossing neighbourhood.

She was pleased, however, to have the number made public this week so taxpayers understand the costs associated with the challenge.

"I was surprised by the amount of money spent on legal fees," she said the day after the costs were released. "It was a very large number. But it's been a topic that's been under vociferous discussion for quite some time so, at the end of the day, I wasn't shocked."

As far as she knows there is enough money set aside in the municipal budget to cover the costs.

Council has not yet made a decision how to deal with the B.C. Supreme Court ruling handed down at the end of January, which allows Whistler Aggregates to continue operating beside the Olympic legacy neighbourhood.

"Certainly the cost of an appeal and the length of time it would take to get in front of an appellate court and the chances of success, as well as how much as been spent to date, are all factors that are taken into account in deciding whether we would go forward with an appeal or not," said the mayor.

If it plans to appeal the judgment, council must make that decision before Mar. 1 because it only has 30 days to file a notice of appeal. Wilhelm-Morden does not expect that decision to be made at the upcoming council meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 21.

Meanwhile, Pique has learned that BC Assessment is recommending to the Property Assessment Review Panel that it reduce the assessed value of some homes at Cheakamus Crossing, in some cases by as much as $20,000.

Come property-tax time that means those homeowners could be footing a smaller share of the overall municipal tax bill, which could have implications for other Whistler homeowners.

The RMOW revealed the asphalt challenge costs in a press release this week, which stated that between 2009 and January 2012 the municipality spent $574,750 on costs associated with the asphalt plant dispute, including legal costs, the report on the relocation options as well as work done to implement the air quality monitoring system. About 78 per cent was spent on legal costs.

In addition, the municipality must also pay roughly $16,000 on account of Whistler Aggregates' costs based on a tariff schedule.

The Mayor was not available for comment before press time Wednesday.

"I'm surprised it was that high," said Cheakamus resident Tim Koshul. "But we've blown more than that in the past on crazier stuff.

"Can you put a price on the quality of life?"