News » Whistler

Asphalt plant deal moves ahead after 4-3 vote

Angry residents plan to come out in large numbers for Sept. 7 public hearing



Tim Koshul said he was disheartened by what he saw on the MY Millennium Place stage Tuesday night.

The unofficial spokesperson for the No Asphalt Plant group was one of 12 people who grilled council for two hours during the public question and answer period on the rezoning application for the asphalt plant at Cheakamus Crossing.

By a 4-3 vote Whistler council gave the first two readings to bylaws for the plant.

But Koshul said Cheakamus Crossing residents will be back in even greater numbers for the public hearing on Sept. 7.

"Basically, it was a sleepless night for some of us," an audibly exhausted Koshul said Wednesday. "I am still numbed by what I heard and didn't hear last night. It is very sad that this thing has moved further towards forever in Cheakamus Crossing."

Koshul said it would be more comforting if there was a united front on council. It is hard to fathom that the seven council members have been part of the same discussions, he said, because they are so far apart in their perspectives.

"It is mind-boggling; it is unbelievable," he said.

Koshul and many of the 60 community members present stayed for the majority of the six-and-a-half-hour public meeting on Tuesday night that saw council laboriously debate the asphalt plant move and basalt quarry expansion.

Councillors Ted Milner, Ralph Forsyth and Eckhard Zeilder voted against the bylaws.

The set of bylaws includes an asphalt and aggregate processing bylaw that will see the quarry and plant moved 150 metres further away from the residential neighbourhood and a buffer established. A material extraction bylaw and an air quality bylaw are also part of the package.

If adopted, the quarry would go from 13.7 hectares to 18.4 hectares, including the asphalt plant.

Grant Lamont, who voted against the bylaws last meeting, was the last councillor to voice his position.

"The rezoning that is before us is premature, given that we are also looking at updating our OCP in regards to land use in our community," said the first term councillor.

"However, we have been told by experts and some semi-experts that the mitigation that will be put in place will ensure air quality. I have also reviewed the two legal opinions put forward by the lawyers and feel the legal risks to the greater community are too great and too considerable to roll the dice, so I will be supporting moving this."

Meanwhile, Milner, who was absent at the last meeting, voted against the proposal because he doesn't believe many people in the community think the negotiated settlement with Whistler Aggregates and Alpine Paving is a good deal.

"I have been listening to this for many hours and I think staff have gone a long way to find a really good compromise to this problem," said Milner. "I am not sensing the community is buying it as a good compromise. I am not convinced we have sold it properly."

His comments drew applause from the audience.

However, Mayor Ken Melamed said it is too late to go back to square one.

"The best thing we can do for the community is not have this plant operating a full season during full occupancy of the neighbourhood," said Melamed. "I am firmly convinced that this is the thing that is in the best interest of those people who have chosen to move there."

Melamed stated repeatedly that he is not prepared to go to court with this.

The mayor also said the rezoning does not mean that the asphalt plant and quarry will be active next to Cheakamus Crossing forever.

"There is an ability to continue to work with the operator to find a way to resolve this situation and make it even better than it is today," said Melamed.

"I will be devastated if council does not move forward with this agreement. I will then have to look members of the community in the eye and say, 'You are going to be living with the status quo.'"

Included in Tuesday night's agenda was an Air Quality Management Bylaw, which will see stringent rules attached to the operation of the asphalt plant. The bylaw received first, second and third reading, with Forsyth and Zeidler voting in opposition.

If adopted, the bylaw will require the asphalt manager to obtain an air quality permit to run his operation. The municipality will be able to issue a $10,000 ticket or close plant operations if Whistler Aggregates and Alpine Paving don't comply.

Zeidler said he doesn't believe the bylaw improves air quality in Whistler.

"It doesn't speak to overall emissions, only percentages," said Zeidler. "It measures intensity rather than volume."

After the public hearing, council have scheduled the bylaws for third reading on Sept. 21. If the time line is followed, the rezoning application and Official Community Plan amendment could be adopted at the Oct. 19 council meeting.