News » Whistler

No muni money to move asphalt plant

Council abandons courts, WDC board to negotiate



Whistler won't be opening its chequebook to move the asphalt plant and quarry, but it has charged a third party to make a deal with Whistler Aggregates.

That means Whistler is abandoning the courts, with council voting against an appeal to try to overturn the BC Supreme Court ruling that says the plant is zoned to operate where it has always operated.

And so, council has asked the Whistler Development Corporation (WDC), and specifically the chair of the board Eric Martin, to find a way to get the plant and quarry operations out of the Cheakamus Crossing neighbourhood.

What isn't clear, however, is just how Martin can do that; and with the law now on his side, it's also not clear what would motivate Whistler Aggregates owner Frank Silveri to move.

What is clear is that both sides want to move on.

"It's water under the bridge," said Silveri this week of the lawsuit that cost him hundreds of thousands of dollars. "Let's start over."

When asked if he was willing to move the plant, Silveri said the discussions have not yet even begun, and it was too early to talk about the future.

He is relieved, however, that there will be no appeal, and that the mood now is for dialogue and discussion.

"I'm glad they didn't (appeal) because we've both spent a lot of money here," he said.

And it appears the municipality is unwilling to spend more at this point.

"We're not going in with a chequebook," said Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden this week. "But we are going to work with WDC to resolve everybody's need on this thing."

Martin, a well-known Vancouver developer, has long volunteered as chair of the WDC. He gets $1 a year for his trouble — countless hours and headaches in building the $161 million athletes' village turned employee-housing neighbourhood.

"The first think I think we're going to try to do is better understand his business so we can understand what his long term objectives are, what might work for him and what might not work for him so it's very much exploratory at the start," said Martin.

"If we understand his business better, we understand what motivates him and what makes him successful."

Martin is both realistic. And hopeful.

Perhaps, he suggested, a different location would be better for the asphalt business.

"We've been given no money to put on the table," he added. "My perception since the election is this council has taken a very, very strong position on financial responsibility and they're not doling out money to anybody any time soon. So we're hoping to find a non-financial solution...That's our first objective."

Against the backdrop of the negotiations with Silveri is the Community Charter, which issues a general prohibition against assistance to businesses.