"Well I have a funny idea about how this is going to go," Councillor Chris Quinlan said before endorsing the proposal to move the Alpine Paving asphalt plant 150 metres from its current spot.
"The question is whether it can be moved, and that's not going to happen with this council," he said, noting the only option on the table was the soon-to-be-defeated proposal.
His "funny idea" was on point - council voted 4-3 against the contentious rezoning bylaw. Councillors Grant Lamont, Ted Milner, Ralph Forsyth and Eckhard Zeidler opposed the motion.
"Motion fails. You may now clap," Mayor Ken Melamed said.
Which the 40-person audience did. They cheered and they hollered. Cameras flashed. People slapped high-fives and hugged each other. Tears of joy or relief streamed down more than a few faces and there was a general sense that, yes, the people had won this part of the fight.
For the mayor, the outcome wasn't a cause for celebration.
"I'm actually quite disappointed. I'm sad for the residents down there who were supportive," Melamed said.
To him, the rezoning bylaw was the best thing council could do to address the issues initially raised by the community, which was the concentration of emissions from the asphalt plant.
"It's a meaningful upgrade for an unacceptable status quo," he said.
"It troubles me, 12 or 14 years later, to go back to a business owner in Whistler after we made a decision to put a neighbourhood next to his plant and say, 'You know what? Back then we thought this. Now we're choosing to interpret this differently, and now you're going to have to pay.' I don't think that's a good way to do business. It's not logical to me."
He said he had two regrets in the process: that an opportunity for community input was not held before the agreement between Alpine and the RMOW was reached, and that he encouraged people to find their own legal opinions.
"It was naïve of me to think that anybody could make that decision that didn't have access to the same information that our lawyers had, and that was most unfortunate," he said.
He added later, "I'm going to have to look some people in the eye, and say, 'Sorry, it looks like you're going to be living with the status quo, because I can't quite frankly see a way out.'"
"Oh, he doesn't have to worry about that," said Tim Koshul, struggling to compose himself, tears of relief streaming down his face. "I'm ecstatic to live with the status quo, because the status quo means that we have a very good shot of getting this heavy industry out of the neighbourhood and living in a safe place where we can all enjoy our lives and kids can play and everything else."
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