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Asphalt negotiations were promising, now uncertain

Eric Martin aims to touch base with asphalt plant owner soon to see if discussions can go on



Earlier this summer Eric Martin was optimistic he could seal a deal to move Whistler's asphalt plant away from Cheakamus Crossing. But no longer.

"I think there probably was (a way forward)," said Martin, who was tasked by the municipality to negotiate with asphalt plant owner Frank Silveri in the wake of a Supreme Court of B.C. decision that deemed the plant legal to operate next to the new neighbourhood.

"He was certainly willing to talk."

Silveri is still willing to talk but it's not what the municipality wants to hear.

"We're supposed to move forward and work together?" he asked this week.

"How can you negotiate with somebody when they cut you out like this?"

He was referring to the 2012 municipal asphalt tender, worth more than $600,000, which did not allow him to use his Whistler plant because of a stipulation that the asphalt must be made three kilometres away from a residential neighbourhood.

Silveri still won the contract but the asphalt will come from his Squamish plant and will cost the municipality $55,000 more to truck it in.

"They're not negotiating in good faith," he reiterated, calling it a "slap in the mouth."

"I'm not going to waste my time trying to be Mr. Nice Guy."

Martin said he's spoken to Silveri three times — once in person, once via conference call and once on a private call.

He is hoping to touch base again at the end of the month to see where things stand but he knows Silveri is frustrated with the situation.

"Our door is open but, like I say, I'm not sure how much I can help the situation under the circumstances, but I'm willing to give it one more try. I think at that point I'd be reporting back to the municipality on what I can do or what I can't do," said Martin.

Silveri is legally allowed to operate Whistler Aggregates and Alpine Paving at its current location and, despite not getting the municipal contract for asphalt, he is able to take on other contracts at the plant.

Meanwhile, against the very public asphalt fight, the Whistler Development Corporation (WDC), tasked with building Cheakamus Crossing as an athletes village for the 2010 Olympics and an employee housing village after the Games, has quietly sold out all the remaining River Bend units in the neighbourhood.

That has reduced its loan with the Municipal Finance Authority (MFA) from $100 million to $3 million.

The remainder is expected to be paid down by the sale of the three remaining commercial units (one has sold to date) and the seven market single family lots (two have sold to date).

The WDC also owes $15 million to the municipality, which was borrowed from reserves. That too will come out of future sales over time, said Martin. Although there are no sites for sale other than the current lots, five large development sites still exist in the neighbourhood.