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Cheakamus Crossing residents concerned about noise

Others excited to be moving into new neighbourhood

It's idyllic, really, all of the new Whitewater neighbourhood's identical homes lining the street that slopes downward, facing a big, beautiful mountain to the north. Young children make spontaneous play dates, burning through their tires on little bicycles while their parents, Cheakamus Crossing's newest residents, are putting finishing touches on their new homes.

It's like something lifted from a movie, featuring an adversary to the south, crushing what sounds like metal into metal at 4:30 p.m. on a Monday and billowing brown smoke and dust that hovers above the treeline like a specter.

Darryl Palmer was in the front yard watching his daughter cycle around the street, when he noticed for the first time the unmistakable, unnatural grinding of machinery.

"If it's construction noise, I can put up with it because I know there's an end in sight," he said. "But that could be 15-plus years, it could be generations of noise."

He said he doesn't support council's proposal to move the Alpine Paving operation 150 metres away. He and his wife, Deann, prefer to live with the status quo until a more suitable plan for the community can be reached.

"Instead of giving it (Alpine) the green light, they should look for an option to get rid of it. With them rezoning it, this (will) be permanent."

Bill Barratt, chief administrative officer for the Resort Municipality of Whistler, said he's visited the asphalt plant and quarry site during production hours and said the noise wasn't that loud.

"I was right across from the high performance centre. I didn't think it was that noisy," he said, suggesting that the noises might be from rock crusher at the adjacent quarry. "The asphalt plant was running when I was up there and it really wasn't that noisy.

"To me, I mean, I live by the highway, I live by the railway tracks." He laughed. "It's all relative. Part of the rationale behind that whole move is it deals with a range of issue, including noise, but it won't deal with quarry," Barratt said. But unlike quarry operations in the Lower Mainland, he added, it won't be running year-round.

Alpine Paving currently has contract to pave Highway 99 between Function Junction and the village. Pique called Alpine Paving for clarification on whether the operations on Monday were related to the paving, and to clarify whether the noises were from the plant or the quarry. A spokesperson, who would not provide her name, said it was a normal day for operations and that nothing was louder than it should be. She said that the operations were within their normal business hours. She would not clarify what the noises were nor would she respond to resident complaints or pass us over to someone who would.

The quarry is currently operated between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday to Friday, as well as occasionally on Saturdays, in the summer and fall months.

The proposal for the asphalt plant is to use air filters to eliminate the smell but some residents are concerned that the proposed plan won't deal with the noise issue.

"It sounds like an airplane hovering over there getting ready to take off," said Tobi Henderson, a new resident of Whitewater. "When the crusher's on - you can hear it right now - it's over there chug-chug-chugging along. I don't know if they're planning to hose it down, but the smoke is really bad."

However Melanie Bigner, a new resident at the bottom of the hill said she hasn't heard the plant at all since she moved in. Indeed, the hum of the plant seems to be muffled for residents further down the hill. The noise she has heard has been the construction around the neighbourhood as the contractors put finishing touches on the homes. She said hasn't been very active in the movement against the asphalt plant, one of a number of new residents who have been underrepresented in the media and at council meetings.

"I understand everyone's point but I was just so excited to move in here that it was starting to get a little - even on the Facebook page, it's like any time someone made a positive comment, someone wrote, 'but this... '" she said. All the controversy aside, she just wanted to enjoy her new home.

Pique talked to several other people who echoed Bigner's sentiments, who were just happy to be owning a brand new home in Whistler at all. Many of them weren't bothered by the noise or had never heard it.

"We are so lucky to be living here," said John Lee, who has smelt the asphalt plant but has never heard any of the noises. "We are so lucky. I just can't..." he trailed off, let his arms fall to his side as he looked around at the surrounding mountains.