Asphalt plant gets 10-year renewal 

Whistler Mayor 'disappointed' with provincial decision on Cheakamus operation

click to enlarge FILE PHOTO
  • File photo

The Whistler Aggregates asphalt plant in Cheakamus Crossing will stay put for the foreseeable future.

After months of review, the plant was offered a 10-year lease renewal by the provincial ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Urban Development on Sept. 15.

In an eight-page document outlining his reasons for the decision, Sea to Sky Natural Resource District manager Dave Southam noted that Whistler Aggregates has taken steps to reduce the impact of its operations, and that monitoring reports show no reduction in air quality on days when the plant is operating.

He's also satisfied there is no seismic threat to buildings as a result of blasting in the quarry.

While the majority of public comments were respectful and well thought out, Southam noted that some were ill informed and filled with emotional rhetoric (one went as far as to compare the plant to operating a Nazi concentration camp).

Others fully supported the renewal.

In his conclusion, Southam touched on Whistler Aggregates' willingness to discuss additional steps, as well as the local employment opportunities it provides and its contributions to the economy.

"I am satisfied (the renewal)... is in the public interest," he wrote.

"I acknowledge that RMOW's council and some members of the public are opposed to the quarry and asphalt plant. However, in my opinion, the parties opposed to the operation did not provide any objective evidence to change my conclusion that it is in the public interest to replace the licence."

Reached by phone on Sept. 20, Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden said she was disappointed with the decision.

"I thought we had put forward a good argument for either not renewing the licence, or alternatively just renewing it for a very short time. I will be speaking to the minister next week at (the Union of BC Municipalities convention in Vancouver) about this, and then we'll try to think about next steps," she said.

"I just don't know if there's anything else we can do — (we'll) speak to the minister and carry on talking with (plant owner Frank Silveri)."

The fight over the location of the asphalt plant stretches back more than a decade, and was one factor that led to the ousting of Whistler's entire mayor and council in 2011.

Cheakamus resident Tim Koshul was one of several people who poured countless hours into research and was outspoken on the issue.

"I'm not happy about it, and I don't think there's going to be too many people down here that will be celebrating the news today," he said of the decision.

"We're not the only ones in the world that are dealing with this, and I just hope they come up with a proper solution."

Silveri and Whistler Aggregates originally applied for a 30-year renewal of the plant's lease back in February.

At its March 7 meeting, Whistler council passed a resolution stating its opposition to the renewal to the provincial Ministry of Forests, as well as one asking that, if the tenure was to be renewed, the term be reduced to one year instead of 30, and that the boundary be modified to increase the tree buffer and operational setback from the residential neighbourhood next door

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