Bill Barratt wants to clarify the history surrounding the rocky asphalt plant situation.
On Tuesday morning, Whistler's chief administrative officer called a meeting with local media to defend the municipality and council's recent decision to move the plant 150 metres from where it now stands, near the new athletes' village/Cheakamus Crossing neighbourhood.
During the stoic media briefing, Barratt said the land where the asphalt plant sits is zoned properly and, based on the history of the site, the municipality would have a strong position if the matter ever ended up in court.
"No matter how much everyone would like to believe that the site was not zoned, we and our solicitors do not share that view and believe the courts would have the same opinion," said Barratt, sitting in front of a board table with the zoning documents in hand.
Barratt said the municipality does not have the power to force the plant's operator, Alpine Paving, to relocate.
He added that the law is interesting because "it is there to provide justice to all, and sometimes that justice does not align with our desires.
"We understand that not everyone is comfortable living near an asphalt plant, and those people will have to make their own decisions if they want to live there," said the chief administrative officer.
"We understand that for many residents who are purchasing in Cheakamus Crossing, it is the single biggest decision they have had to make so far, so we appreciate their concern."
Barratt's comments come on the heals of assertions by a group of future Cheakamus Crossing residents that the municipality mishandled the asphalt plant's zoning in the late 1990s.
The residents - who are informally calling themselves NAP or "No Asphalt Plant" - say the asphalt plant should never have operated at the current site. And they have brought up a series of internal documents surrounding Sabre Transportation Ltd.'s attempt to get zoning for an asphalt and concrete plant in 1998.
But on Tuesday Barratt said the municipality received a legal opinion in 1994 that confirms the asphalt plant is operating legally.
At that time, the municipality's lawyers said the wording in the IP1 zoning (industrial processing) bylaw, which covers the current asphalt plant site, did not explicitly indicate that an asphalt plant was not permitted on the site, said Barratt.
Quoting parts of the confidential legal opinion, Barratt read: "If the Resort Municipality wants to be certain that asphalt plant processing is not permitted in the proposed zone, it should expressly exclude asphalt processing from the list of permitted uses in the zone."
The chief administrative officer then compared that to the IP2 zoning, which was created after the legal opinion for a parcel of land near Emerald Estates. IP2 specifically prohibits asphalt plant use.
In other words, said the somber Barratt, the IP1 zone permits asphalt plants, and the IP2 doesn't.
"It doesn't get any clearer," he said, holding both documents up.
The municipality will put more parameters around the future use of the new asphalt plant site when the rezoning application comes before council in the next few months, he said. Uses currently permitted, like a concrete batch plant, will now be restricted or excluded.
"If I was a resident in that neighbourhood, I would be supporting the rezoning and relocation, as it is an improvement," said Barratt. "Also, it will restrict other industrial uses that currently would be permitted."
But Tim Koshul, spokesperson for the NAP group, found no assurances in Barratt's words.
"I don't get this argument," he said defiantly on Tuesday afternoon. "This is not the spectacular news I was expecting. It is just the same banter that has been coming for a little while. It is old news, but now they have used the term 'legal opinion' again."
Koshul says that the way he reads the two zoning laws, neither IP1 nor IP2 allows for an asphalt plant. Both bylaws say in black and white that unless a specific use has been identified, it is prohibited, said Koshul.
He added that NAP is "absolutely" still considering taking legal action.
"We are waiting to hear back from a couple of friends as far as what grounds we can take this thing forward," he said.
"Every time they (the municipality and council) spew out more stuff that is trying to confuse people, it just motivates us more to continue digging for facts, do our research, get professionals involved and get some direction on where we need to go next."