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Lawyers' advice: Can't force asphalt operator to move

Council continues to work on solution to satisfy upset Cheakamus owners and business owner



Council may not be able to move the asphalt plant on the edge of the Cheakamus Crossing neighbourhood as they vowed to do for new residents at the end of last year.

"The lawyers have given us advice that suggests we can't compel him to move," Mayor Ken Melamed explained during a lengthy question and answer period at Tuesday's council meeting where he was peppered with questions from upset residents.

"He has a legal right to stay where he is and operate as he is. That's the legal opinion that we have.

"The case law in British Columbia is very strong. It's not ambiguous."

But that doesn't mean council has given up trying to find a solution that will satisfy hundreds of new homeowners and a businessman who has the legal right to operate his asphalt business.

"We're trying to find a resolution to meet the interests of the community that is amenable to Mr. Silveri (the owner of Alpine Paving) and the community."

That answer was met with a level of disbelief and mistrust by some of the residents who continued to question how Alpine Paving got its permits in the first place and how it has been operating with them in the municipality for more than a decade.

When some people tried to drill down to the details of that process the mayor quickly pointed out that the history of the plant isn't really relevant.

"We've asked the lawyers to look into every aspect of his permits," he said.

"He is compliant and the permits are valid.

"If you don't believe it, you can pursue this line of questioning with other authorities."

In addition to not being able to force Alpine Paving to move, the municipality also cannot help pay for any such move, estimated to cost between $1 to $2 million.

And so negotiations for a solution are ongoing.

"You could infer from the report... that part of the discussion is about upgrading the plant," said the mayor.

But the municipality also cannot pay for upgrades to the plant to bring its emissions in line with the more stringent regulations for asphalt plants located in Metro Vancouver. Those are estimated to cost about $1 million.

"The law is clear that we cannot provide a subsidy," said the mayor, when questioned about the money after the meeting.

He was reticent to go into any details about a potential solution at the meeting but one could be made public before the end of April, when an open house is scheduled.

For some residents, deeply concerned about air quality and health in the new neighbourhood, there is simply one option - move the plant.

"The only course of action to ensure 100 per cent safety for all residents is to move the plant to a different location, in a different valley where the PMs, Organics, CO2s and Opacity are all removed from the vicinity of Cheakamus Crossing," wrote new owner Natasha Fremont on the Cheakamus Crossing Facebook page.

Fremont, along with her husband Sebastien, was at Tuesday's council meeting.

The following day Sebastien Fremont said:

"I'm still just hoping that council and staff are going to follow up on what they said they were going to do.

"You have no choice but to keep being optimistic that the system is going to work in our best interests."

Council did not debate the issue publicly on Tuesday. It decided instead, at the request of Councillor Eckhard Zeidler, to defer receiving the report prepared by consultants these last three months because staff was not on hand to answer the more technical questions.

The report will come back again at the next council meeting.

The date for the open house has not yet been set but will happen at the end of April.

Late last year council set a June 1 deadline to move the asphalt plant after public outcry on the eve of Cheakamus Crossing owners putting down their second deposit on their new homes.

The deadline was passed in a contentious four to two vote at the council table with the mayor and Councillor Chris Quinlan voting against a timeline that they said may not be realistic.

When asked if he regretted the deadline the mayor said:

"No comment... It was what it was. It set an intention to respond to the community. The information that we've received now provides clarity as to why it can't be achieved."

Council is still well aware of the health and air quality concerns of the residents and shares those concerns.

Said the mayor: "In a perfect world the plant would be moved by June 1.... But we don't live in a perfect world."