Alpine Paving is rolling a whole new asphalt plant into town in time for the upcoming operating season.
The company, which currently operates an asphalt plant on a property close to the Cheakamus Crossing residential neighbourhood, announced in a joint news release with the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) that the new mobile facility has been purchased for about $2 million and will meet "higher emissions standards" and address the "majority of complaints from neighbourhood residents."
The location of the plant will remain the same.
"The new plant is consistent with the plants that currently operate in Metro Vancouver and meets the stringent air quality standards set in Metro Vancouver," Alpine Paving owner Frank Silveri said in the news release. "This new plant is the right thing to do considering the neighbourhood next door and it is also a good business decision for our company."
The current plant, according to the news release, meets "all current Provincial regulations for asphalt plant emissions and operations." Alpine Paving expects the new one to "far exceed" new air quality regulations that are currently being introduced by the province.
As Alpine Paving rolls a new plant into town, the RMOW may re-introduce an air quality management bylaw that would apply the same emissions standards as exist in Metro Vancouver, which the news release states are the "strictest in the province, and would provide the RMOW with additional tools for enforcement."
Unlike the relocation plan that the RMOW had initially agreed to with Alpine Paving last year, which included a capital cost commitment of $350,000, it is not making a financial contribution to the new facility upgrade.
The new plant is being announced after a lengthy conflict between a group of Whistler residents opposed to its location near Cheakamus Crossing and the municipality, which has continually maintained that the existing facility has a right to operate where it is and that it is not in a legal position to compel it to move.
Tensions between both parties came to a head at the Feb. 15 council meeting when Dave Buzzard, a vocal member of No Asphalt Plant (NAP) but not a Cheakamus resident himself, asked Mayor Ken Melamed whether any senior staff at the municipality "made a representation to Alpine Paving that they could operate on the current position they're situated in."
Melamed responded that when the plant moved from one pit to another, the move was referred to municipal staff who informed the operator that the plant was compliant with IP1 zoning at the time - a bylaw that's more recently been disputed as to whether it permits operation of an asphalt plant or not.
Buzzard then asked whether staff said, "Sure, no problem" in response to the question of whether the plant could operate there. Melamed said, "I don't think it was that simple. There was a certain amount of reflection and consideration, there was some debate about amending the bylaw at the time, but staff didn't recommend it to council."
Buzzard then asked, "So does, whatever current legal action that could stem from requiring Alpine Paving to move, come from that representation that staff made to Alpine Paving?"
"Absolutely," Melamed responded.
In an interview on Tuesday, Administrator Bill Barratt said a member of senior staff did indicate to Alpine Paving either in late 1996 or early 1997 that it could operate an asphalt plant within the IP1 zone.
That statement would seem to be at odds with an e-mail in which Chris Bishop, a planning technician with the municipality, told Sandra Smith of the bylaw department in an email that the plant's owners "might try to simply operate illegally."
Explaining the e.mail, Barratt said Bishop didn't have all the necessary information when he wrote that.
"If you look at zoning law, there's tons of it," Barratt said. "As you move forward, you're constantly refining, cleaning up zoning. That's how it got started, but that doesn't change the fact of how, again, there's a planner going, let's clean this up, oops, everyone gets worked up and realizes this is a pre-existing condition here.
"I know Chris, great guy, good planner, but didn't have all the information."
Barratt also refused to clarify which member of senior staff indicated to the plant's operators whether they could process asphalt there.
Tim Koshul, spokesman for the No Asphalt Plant group, paraphrased a quote by U.S. President Barack Obama saying the new asphalt plant was akin to putting "lipstick on a pig."
"The upgrades might be for a plan but it's not an upgrade to the zoning," he said. "I'm still confident we can prove that he has to move his shiny new plant out of the neighbourhood."