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Whistler pledged $350,000 for asphalt plant upgrades

Community Charter states local governments cannot give assistance to private businesses

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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."

For Tim Koshul, spokesman for the No Asphalt Plant (NAP) group that's working to move the plant away from Cheakamus Crossing, the municipality wasn't telling the truth when it characterized its contribution as "legal costs."

"I said right in the beginning of this thing to my neighbours an old quote of Elvis Presley's," he said in an interview with Pique . "'Truth is like the sun, you can't hide from it because it's always there.'

"I knew in my heart and so did most people that I talk to in this community, that they weren't being straight with us. This again, a multitude of times, shows that there's something not right. Something stinks and it's not just the asphalt plant."

Koshul went on to say that he believes giving money to Alpine Paving to assist in upgrades to the plant amounts to a violation of the Community Charter, a provincial legislation that sets out the mandate and responsibilities of a local government.

Section 25 of the Charter states that a council cannot provide a "grant, benefit, advantage or other form of assistance to a business" unless it concerns a heritage property, nor can it be exempt from a tax or fee.

In the Relocation Agreement, the municipality commits to paying half the costs that Alpine Paving incurs to pay for the new baghouse. It also commits to preparing a land survey of the Relocation Site "at its sole cost" and deliver it to the Integrated Land Management Bureau (ILMB) before May 31, 2010.

RMOW Administrator Bill Barratt denied that the agreement violates the Community Charter. He said in an interview that the Relocation Agreement is a legal settlement and that costs relating to the baghouse and other components amount to "legal costs."

"Legal costs could be legal fees, could be costs associated with a settlement, that's why it was called legal costs," he said.

"No mystery."

The agreement is moot at this point since Council failed to move forward with the zoning for Alpine in September.

For more on this story read Pique on Thursday.

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