The Resort Municipality of Whistler claims that staff felt an asphalt plant was a permitted use when Alpine Paving Ltd. began operating, but that is contradicted by staff advice shown in a series of internal documents.
Responding to a request from Pique last week, a media coordinator with the RMOW provided some detail relating to the legal opinion that council obtained at an in camera meeting in late 2009.
Coordinator Melissa Darou said via e-mail that when the asphalt plant belonging to Alpine Paving Ltd. was moved to its current location, the IP1 (industrial processing one) zoning for that property was "not amended" to specify the asphalt plant as a permitted use.
She wrote, "Zoning bylaws are subject to interpretation, and the interpretation of staff of the day was that the asphalt plant was a permitted use."
The municipality has posted on its website a number of frequently asked questions and responses regarding the asphalt plant. That document includes the statement: "The owner submitted a letter to the RMOW in 1997 to find out if he required rezoning to operate in the gravel pit. Staff at the time reviewed the zoning and felt that the zoning permitted the proposed land use."
However, that statement is contradicted in correspondence the RMOW recorded when the previous owner of the property where Alpine Paving is located tried to obtain the zoning it needed to operate the plant.
Sabre Transport Ltd. tried to get asphalt and concrete processing included in the zoning for the property in 1998.
The application met with immediate resistance from the municipality's engineering department, which explained in a memo to planning technician Chris Bishop that it could not support the rezoning because it worried that an aging bridge over the Cheakamus River would not support the weight of concrete and asphalt trucks.
The application later encountered opposition from the municipality's Advisory Planning Commission. Members of the commission stated in a May 28, 1998 meeting that Alpine Paving was "operating without a licence" but that the RMOW could not deal with that issue, saying it was for the province to deal with.
Others noted at the meeting that an asphalt operation could create "poor air quality" due to asphalt's "acrid, pervasive odour" and that it's a hazardous material "until it has been laid on the road."
Four days after the meeting, Bishop sent an e-mail to Sandra Smith of the bylaw department stating that the rezoning application "didn't get much support" at the APC. He went on to say that matters had stalled in the course of processing the application and that it "might try to simply operate illegally."
Sabre ultimately withdrew its rezoning application because the municipality wanted it to help pay for restoration of the bridge over the Cheakamus River, a project that required repairs that cost up to $500,000.
Sabre indicated in a phone conversation with Bishop in April 1999 that it was no longer interested in proceeding with an amendment to the IP1 zone that would allow for asphalt and concrete production.
The door was officially closed on the zoning application in a Sept. 15, 2000 letter from Sabre owner Art Den Duyf to Mike Purcell, director of planning and development at the RMOW. He said in the letter, "The items that the RMOW hold out for appear to me as 'blackmail' or whatever. Firstly I do not do any of either. Secondly, I do not have the funds."