The Resort Municipality of Whistler committed to providing the operators of an asphalt plant up to $350,000 for upgrades to help it comply with an emissions bylaw - a move that critics are calling a violation of the Community Charter.
In a Relocation Agreement obtained under a Freedom of Information request by Whistler resident Judy Bonn, the RMOW commits to providing plant owner Alpine Paving (1978) Ltd. with "one half of the capital costs (not exceeding $350,000 as Whistler's contribution)" of installing a Baghouse and other components to help it comply with emission standards to be adopted under a new air quality bylaw.
In a May 31, 2010 document detailing Frequently Asked Questions about the asphalt plant, the municipality states that Alpine Paving will spend between $1 million and $1.2 million to relocate the plant, and that the RMOW would make a financial contribution to the project.
The document goes on to say that the agreement was established to settle a "legal dispute, the results of which must remain privileged as a condition of the settlement, but the municipal solicitor has confirmed there is no unlawful assistance to business so the transaction is valid."
The document characterizes the "financial contribution" as legal costs. But the Relocation Agreement states the RMOW's contribution amounts to "capital costs."
The release of the agreement led to a heated exchange during Question and Answer Period at Tuesday night's Whistler council meeting. Dave Buzzard, a resident of Emerald but an active critic of the municipality's handling of the asphalt plant, was first to speak after Mayor Ken Melamed pointed out that Question and Answer Period was for information and not for debate.
Buzzard began pointing to Schedule E of the agreement, in which the parties agree not to bring legal claims against each other in relation to relocating the plant. Before he finished speaking, Melamed asked, "What's the question?"
Buzzard then asked whether the RMOW was keeping secret a lawsuit that may have precipitated the agreement and thus required it to remain confidential.
Melamed responded that there was no lawsuit and that the RMOW struck an agreement to avoid future suits. Buzzard then asked, "Yes, but what was the actionable conduct on the part of the RMOW that would entail a $350,000 legal settlement?"
Melamed then said there was no actionable conduct, repeating that the agreement was meant to prevent any future legal action.
Tim Koshul, spokesman for the No Asphalt Plant (NAP) group that's working to move the plant away from Cheakamus Crossing, was next to the microphone wearing a baseball cap. Before asking a question Melamed addressed him and said, "Mr. Koshul, would you mind just taking your hat off?"