Asphalt plant applies for 30-year lease extension 

RMOW preparing response in opposition

click to enlarge PHOTO BY BRADEN DUPUIS - asphalt plant Frank Silveri, the owner of Whistler's controversial asphalt plant, has applied for a 30-year lease extension, a move the RMOW plans to oppose.
  • PHOTO by braden dupuis
  • asphalt plant Frank Silveri, the owner of Whistler's controversial asphalt plant, has applied for a 30-year lease extension, a move the RMOW plans to oppose.

The owner of the Whistler Aggregates asphalt plant in Cheakamus Crossing has applied for a lease extension of more than 30 years, and the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) is preparing to oppose it.

"It's 30-plus years too many," said Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden, when asked for her thoughts on the length of the proposed extension.

"We don't want to see renewal of the plant."

As part of the application, the provincial government is requesting a new survey of the exact area Whistler Aggregates owner Frank Silveri would like to lease, after which the RMOW will have 30 days to respond, the mayor said.

The municipality met with government officials at last fall's Union of BC Municipalities convention in anticipation of the impending renewal, she said.

"They have to weigh the concerns of their constituency, but they also have to take into account the fact that this fellow has been in operation for many, many years, he does pay them royalties, and it's revenue generation for the province," said Wilhelm-Morden.

"On the other hand, Whistler generates $1.53 billion in GDP, so when we say that those uses are inconsistent with what we're doing here, firstly, and secondly it's immediately adjacent to a neighbourhood of full-time residents... I'm hopeful that some weight will be given to our comments, but I do think that the neighbourhood has to certainly make their views known, and the fact that we're four months out from a provincial election may have some play here as well."

Residents who wish to share their thoughts can do so with the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, MLA Jordan Sturdy and Minister of Forests Steve Thomson.

"Time is of the essence for people to get their comments in," Wilhelm-Morden said.

The fight over the location of the asphalt plant stretches back more than a decade, and was one factor that led to the ousting of Whistler's entire mayor and council in 2011.

Cheakamus resident Tim Koshul was one of several people who poured countless hours into research and was outspoken on the issue.

"There's so many layers to the onion. I don't know if you or me or anyone will ever know everything about everything, but one thing I know for sure is this neighbourhood has grown," Koshul said.

With new families in the neighbourhood and more housing on the way, Koshul still has concerns over the potential health effects of living so close to an asphalt plant.

"Thirty years is just a disaster," he said of the new proposal.

"The kids are out on hikes all the time and outside, and I've seen the dust bowls... when they're crushing rock and the dust is going, health experts tell me that's worse than what the asphalt plant can do to you."

Koshul said he'd like to see the plant relocated, and not into someone else's backyard.

"I don't think that thing should be in anybody's backyard in Whistler," he said.

"I think it's crazy. There's vast areas, and it's a portable plant that they try to pretend is etched into the earth and it can never be moved."

Wilhelm-Morden said her understanding is that there is no reason for the plant to be located where it is, "because (Silveri) has to truck in all of the materials, including rock, for the manufacture of asphalt, so the plant has no reason to be there."

"He owns a gravel pit north of here, which is across the street from one single-family home as opposed to 200, so there are alternatives available to him for the asphalt plant."

Silveri did not respond to a request for comment before Pique's deadline.

Is Koshul confident the plant can be moved?

"If you asked me before the last fiasco, if I thought a community like Whistler would pull out all the stops to remove heavy industry, back then I would tell you 'absolutely,'" he said.

"That's not what we are. We're a tourist-based town, right? Not heavy industry. But after that last mess, I'm not so confident anymore."

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