Letters to the Editor for the week of Feb 16th, 2012 

Double or nothing on appeal?

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The recent court decision regarding the Cheakamus Crossing asphalt plant came as a real shock to me. I was so confident of the outcome that I foolishly bet a friend a bottle of wine the judge would bring in a decisive decision for Whistler.

The ramifications of the court's decision go far beyond the quality of life for the Cheakamus Crossing residents. The municipality still owes over $8,000,000 to the municipal finance authority, and there's another $16,000,000 still outstanding from the municipal capital reserves, for a total of $24,000,000 in outstanding debt on Cheakamus Crossing. Sales of the market housing and lots have been lagging, and an exodus of residents from the market-controlled part of the development would kill those sales dead. There are also several commercial lots not on the market, and un-rented commercial properties. The municipality went as far as offering a $300,000 incentive to get a local restaurant to rent one of the spaces, which has to speak about the amount of interest in those properties.

Put simply, Whistler the community, has a very significant financial interest in the Cheakamus Crossing neighbourhood. If the continued presence of the asphalt plant permanently tanks the sales and rentals of the market components of the development, then Whistler will be in a very big financial hole.

The other thing Whistler has to look out for is the scope of the judge's ruling. The decision, in its basest form, is that since asphalt is a manufacturing process involving gravel and aggregate, then it's a permitted use. That means that any manufacturing process involving gravel and aggregate is now an approved use under the bylaw. Armed with the court ruling, the owners of the gravel pit could apply to the province for a license to put in a concrete plant, or any other manufacturing plant that uses gravel and aggregate. An example might be a factory to make concrete garden gnomes.

Of course, the fight is far from over. The municipality can still appeal the decision, providing the municipal lawyers can find an error in law in the original ruling. As far as the continuing costs involved, a good comparison is the recent Rainbow Park lands case that the municipality intended to take to appeal (a failure on the part of the municipal lawyers to file the paper work on time scuttled that appeal). The municipality budgeted $60,000 for the appeal, and the issues in the Rainbow case trial were far more complicated and detailed than the Cheakamus Crossing case.

It's a given that there's no certainties when you go to court. If there were, I'd go double or nothing with my friend on the municipality winning the case at appeal. But when you think about the potential downsides, it doesn't seem like a huge risk to take this to appeal.

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