Asphalt plant to be relocated before next summer 

Contentious council debate over putting timeframe on operator

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The long-operating asphalt plant, which has been making Whistler's blacktop for two decades without interruption, has been given its marching orders.

It has to find a new home, with the help of municipal staff, before the spring, with a deadline of June 1, 2010.

Council made its decision Tuesday night at a special council meeting in the wake of outcry from future residents about the operation of the plant in proximity to the $161 million athletes' village. That village is to be transformed into the Cheakamus Crossing neighbourhood after the 2010 Olympics.

"I've set the date because I don't believe there should be a summer of emissions and smoke and smog in one of our most valuable assets," said Councillor Ted Milner.

More than 50 future residents of the neighbourhood attended the meeting and council's decision, which passed in a contentious four to two vote, was met with a mixture of optimism and relief.

"I was extremely happy to hear how positive the councillors were about shutting down the plant, about moving it and about protecting the health of the neighbourhood, and (to hear) their honest concerns and their expressions as to how this should have been fixed years ago and had not been fixed," said Natasha Frémont, after the meeting.

It gives her comfort, she added, to move ahead with the second deposit on her new home (three per cent of the price) by the extended date of Dec. 8.

"As long as it's on paper saying it's going to be gone by June 1, I think that's more than enough to satisfy at least myself and hopefully everyone else," said Frémont.

Therein lies the crux of the issue for Mayor Ken Melamed and Councillor Chris Quinlan, who voted against the June 1, 2010 deadline.

"Great goal," Quinlan said to Milner of his deadline. "Love to see it happen. What are you going to do when we can't deliver June 1?"

They are concerned about meeting a deadline that may not be realistic, given the fact that the asphalt plant has been operating in the valley on Crown land for 20 years with permits from the province.

Council's direction to move the plant by June 1 appeared to weigh heavily on the mayor's shoulders as he left the meeting.

His concern, as he told the crowd Tuesday night is: "I do not like giving people the impression of making promises that I can't keep."

While it's true that Alpine Paving/Whistler Aggregates doesn't have, and has never had, official zoning from the municipality to operate an asphalt plant, it has been operating there with the municipality's unofficial consent for two decades.

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