Faith and frustration

Next Tuesday, frustrations surrounding Cheakamus Crossing and the asphalt plant will be vented for, perhaps, the final time. The public hearing for the bylaws that permit the plant to be moved 150 metres and require it to meet new air quality standards is the last opportunity to speak to council about the matter, and it promises to be a long meeting.

There are frustrations on all sides, including those residents of Cheakamus Crossing who have moved into the new neighbourhood and are happy with their homes. It stems from the fact that all of Whistler has an interest in Cheakamus Crossing succeeding. Indeed, the whole province has a stake, since it was provincial taxpayers who provided the land for the neighbourhood.

But perhaps the greatest frustration is with how we got to this imperfect "solution."

It started last November when about 100 people who had signed disclosure statements before purchasing homes at Cheakamus Crossing showed up at a council meeting to express concerns and ask questions about the asphalt plant. Council had few answers. After two hours of discussion council agreed to get staff to work on the unanswered questions, including the cost of moving the plant, potential relocation sites and to investigate the legal ramifications of the zoning.

For his part, Alpine Paving's Frank Silveri said, "I'm willing to give up part of my claim to make things better for everyone. They won't even know we're there."

A week later council voted 4-2 (with Mayor Ken Melamed and Councillor Chris Quinlan opposed) to move the asphalt plant by June 1. "Great goal," Quinlan said to Councillor Ted Milner of his deadline. "Love to see it happen. What are you going to do when we can't deliver June 1?"

"It might not be possible to stop the operations of the plant without repercussions that you might regret, that we all might regret," said the mayor.

"The issue here is the history and the exposure to the municipality," said Administrator Bill Barratt.

The next week Silveri came back and said he couldn't move the plant in six months. The military was taking over his site from Dec. 15 to March 15 to keep an eye on the athletes' village and he had contracts in place for the spring.

"I'm certainly not going to pay for it, that's for damn sure," he said. "If someone didn't do the paperwork, is that my fault?" he asked of the missing zoning.

Council also shut down for nearly three months as the Olympics and Paralympics assumed top priority. When council finally met again, on March 23, the mayor announced that the June 1 date was not going to be met but council was studying seven options for moving the asphalt plant. The options had been presented at an in camera meeting.

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