Whistler will likely have to live with a gravel pit and rock crushing operation north of the Cougar Mountain Road because provincial legislation governing gravel pits considers only the property owner.
Environmental Services Manager Brian Barnett told council Monday that essentially the Mines Act doesn’t consider any one else’s input, providing the operation is safe.
"The Ministry of Employment and Investment (the approving agency for the Mines Act) can’t deny this application," Barnett said.
The application is to remove up to 35,000 cubic metres of material annually, for 10 years, from private property west of Highway 99, between the Cougar Mountain Road and the heliport. The operation would include a stone crusher and a screening plant. Settling ponds would remove silt prior to effluent discharge.
The proponent, who voluntarily withdrew a previous, larger application for a gravel pit on the Parkhurst property next to Green Lake, is eager to proceed with the new gravel pit. "The Mines Branch indicated that they see no reason why the application would be denied," Barnett wrote.
However, Councillor Ted Milner noted that the municipality reached an agreement with the forest industry whereby logging is now prohibited in areas that are visible from the Whistler Valley and Whistler or Blackcomb mountains.
"This will be visible from the mountains," Milner said.
"This is not a good thing for the valley at all. We shouldn’t bow to the ministry, we should explore means through our lawyers to block this. We should block this development."
Councillor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden noted the municipality has proposed revisions to the RR1 zoning currently sitting at second reading. She asked if there was anything in the revisions that would prohibit mining, but staff didn’t have the answer.
"If the RR1 bylaw is there and it prohibits gravel removal, that might be a vehicle (for preventing the gravel pit)," administrator Jim Godfrey said.
"The difficulty with any tactics is the application is in under the existing bylaws."
Municipal staff are investigating other means of preventing the gravel pit from going ahead.
Staff is also working on amendments to the municipality’s soil removal bylaw to increase permit fees and add a price for each cubic metre of soil removed. The user fee would be in consideration of the cost to maintain and repair roads used by trucks removing soil and gravel.
The current permit fee, set in 1979, is $10.