After many years of silence I have decided to share my side of the story regarding the asphalt plant and quarry operations in Function Junction, the industrial centre for Whistler.
As you are aware, I have been demonized in the papers, on social media outlets and at council meetings for no reason. I have done nothing wrong. Although the politicians and the anti-asphalt people are loud in their protests against the quarry and asphalt plant operations, they have taken it to a personal level. I don't know about you, but I don't think I would appreciate the fact that my father, husband, uncle, friend were being vilified in the papers as some kind of monster when all he was doing was providing for his family, all in a manner that meets all provincial and local rules and regulations.
The Cheakamus Crossing, anti-asphalt protesters are entitled to express their opinions as long as those opinions are based on the facts of the situation, and only the facts. To have some residents complain about the smell of the asphalt plant when the waste water treatment plant (pronounced poop processing plant) is closer to their homes than the asphalt plant is, is very suspicious. Then they complain about the "smoke" coming from the asphalt plant when it is actually steam that is emitted. They move on to the poisons in the air, health issues and all of the other materials that anti-asphalt protesters use in the course of their dialogue with the media and the community. Meanwhile, none of the meaningful facts are revealed by these protesters. They continue to provide half truths or misinformation to confuse the issues.
Each and every resident that purchased a unit at CC had to sign a “disclosure statement" outlining the quarry and asphalt plant operations and the consequences of living near such facilities. While some of the residents were quick to sign the disclosure statement, they were equally as quick to start their protest against the quarry operations to the point of personal attacks on me. These continue today on some social media outlets that purport to represent the CC community.
The local papers have printed some of the protestors’ mistruths in the Letters to the Editor section of the papers, without doing any research to verify the "mistruths" or "misinformation" contained in those letters. To their credit, the local papers have requested interviews from me and I have been reluctant to agree to these for fear of being misquoted and escalating the debate about the quarry operations.
All I know is that we have been servicing the community for more than 20 years, have stayed in the same location and been a good resident and corporate citizen from day one.
I am a very private person and I do not wish to make a lot of noise or allegations about the entire "five-years of hell" situation, but I cannot sit back and let the mayor and council sterilize my business. Nor can I continue to allow the anti-asphalt people to spread misinformation about me, my family or my business.
Here is the accounting of the facts:
Whistler Aggregates and Alpine Paving are both owned and operated by the Silveri family, which have served Whistler and the surrounding communities since 1978.
Whistler Aggregates (WAL) and Alpine Paving (AP) began mixing asphalt in Whistler in 1989 in a pit location known as W-7, owned and operated by Sabre Transport in Function Junction. Alpine Paving paid the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) $750 for the rezoning application. The person in charge for the RMOW was John Nelson — Director of Public Works.
In 1997, WAL and AP moved the asphalt plant some 1,000 metres into another pit known as W-6, at the request of the RMOW. The current mayor was on council when this request was made and approved. I inquired about the rezoning application to operate the plant at its new location and was verbally informed by Brian Barnett, Assistant City Engineer, that everything was OK with the asphalt plant location in pit W-6, as it was properly zoned for the asphalt plant and quarry operations.
In 2004, I purchased the licence of occupation for the quarry site for Whistler Aggregates Ltd., from Sabre Transport. I continued on with the business of making sand and gravel and mixing asphalt during the purchase period. Prior to the final purchase agreement being signed, I did my due diligence by contacting the RMOW, informing them of my intentions to purchase the quarry operation and I specifically asked the RMOW if the quarry would become a problem after the Athletes Village was built and occupied. I even met on site with Mike Vance from the RMOW, and was assured the asphalt plant and quarry operations would not be a problem because it met all of the municipal bylaw criteria, and was located far enough away from the proposed athletes village to not pose a problem. Mr. Vance informed me that I should proceed with the purchase.
In 2004, shortly after the completion of the quarry operation purchase, a meeting took place in Whistler at the Municipal Hall with attendees Bill Barratt (CAO), Joe Paul, Mike Vance, Valerie Lowther from the Integrated Land Management Bureau (ILMB) and me. At this meeting, the RMOW asked me if I could keep the mining operation moving further away from the new athletes village site and leave a portion of the existing mine site as a buffer between the asphalt operation and the new athletes village.
My companies carried on doing business and I had an excellent working relationship with RMOW until May 3, 2011.
In March 2008, I was approached by the province and asked if I would make the necessary applications, and do the required surveying, to make the previously discussed land exchange (Item 4 above) legal. This was to be done as a favour to the province and the RMOW. I (WAL and AP) agreed to the exchange of lands as requested. We would receive an equal amount of land further south in exchange for the area that would form the large buffer zone between the community and the asphalt plant.
We were then required to enter into a formal application process to the ILMB for the new land, which included producing several studies, the hiring of consultants and many other professionals that ended up costing over $45,000, in order to have the new section of land rezoned to comply with RMOW IP1 zoning. This also required that the RMOW rezone this land. With all of the land exchanges taken into account, the overall mine site was enlarged by 0.1 hectares. I incurred all of these costs with no help from the province or the RMOW.
Whistler Aggregates installed power lines in the summer of 2009, at great expense, to eliminate a noisy and fossil fuel burning "generator set" that formerly powered the crushers and asphalt mixing facilities.
I remained engaged with the RMOW and was reassured by the legal opinions of the RMOW solicitors that WAL and AP met all criteria to operate the asphalt mixing plant in its current location. I agreed again, as another favour to the RMOW, to move the plant an additional 150 metres away into a secluded portion of the quarry in order to maximize the distance away from the Cheakamus Crossing community. In order to do this, the land had to be cleared and leveled and aggregate brought in to create a foundation for the new work areas, all at my expense. The RMOW continued to assure me that council would approve the rezoning applications and that there would be no problems.
The RMOW also concluded that moving the plant location further away from the village and installing a new asphalt plant (at a cost of approximately $2 million) that would meet all Metro Vancouver air emission standards, and exceed provincial air emissions standards, was the best option for both parties. The RMOW was to pass new bylaws to create more strict air emission standards and rezone the property, as per their commitment to me (WAL AP).
Some of the RMOW council (referred to in the local social media sites, as the “Fab Four”) all of a sudden, had no intention of rezoning the property. At council meetings, motions regarding rezoning the WAL property were either deferred or defeated. All of a sudden the council decided that WAL was not operating their asphalt plant in compliance with the RMOW's zoning bylaws and that was that. We were unsure of just what was going on at this time as the mayor and the CAO of the day were quite sure that WAL/AP was operating within the definitions of the current zoning bylaw.
In the mean time, the mayor and several other senior staff officials at the RMOW had been assuring me that they would not move my operations from the current mine site.
In the Spring of 2011, the RMOW council did an about face and instructed staff to have RMOW's legal council send to WAL a "cease and desist order" effective May 13, 2011. My lawyer determined that we could continue to operate the facilities until such time as this matter would go before the courts.
The annual RMOW paving contract was called in April 2011. My company, Alpine Paving, was the only bidder.
Council rejected Alpine's tender based on the "future litigation" the RMOW anticipated receiving from WAL/AP over the rezoning issues. No litigation orders were ever given by me.
Council instructed staff to re-tender the 2011 annual paving contract, with some additional work to be performed (and to make the retendered package legal) with the proviso that "no asphalt is to be manufactured in the RMOW." Staff was also instructed to seek out other companies that would be willing to bid on the 2011 paving program, by any means possible, including soliciting their bids by phone. This would appear to be an unacceptable "tender call" practice for municipal projects.
The second tender closed on May 19/11 and once again, Alpine Paving was the low bidder. There were two other bids at substantially higher prices.
On May 26, 2011, council rejected the tender once again and asked staff to seek legal council on awarding the contract to the second place bidder, even though the other bids were a minimum of $100,000 higher than Alpine's tendered price.
In November of 2011, the RMOW and WAL attended the Supreme Court of BC to argue their cases. The RMOW insisted that the existing zoning did not allow for the manufacturing of asphalt and WAL argued that the existing zoning did allow for manufacturing of asphalt.
In January 2012, the Supreme Court of BC sided with Whistler Aggregates Ltd. and confirmed that it was operating within the RMOW's land use bylaws and zoning. I would be allowed to continue the operations that started back in 1989.
In the Spring of 2012, the RMOW again called their annual paving contract but insisted, via a "Special provision" in the contract, that the "Asphalt produced for this project must be produced at a facility/plant located a minimum of three kilometres from any existing Whistler residential developments."
This virtually "sterilized" my new Whistler Aggregates asphalt plant and forced the paving materials to be shipped all the way from Squamish, at an additional cost to the RMOW taxpayers of $55,000. The extra greenhouse gases that were put into the air because of the RMOW's tendering tactics should disqualify the RMOW from any claims of being environmentally friendly.
The new purchasers (residents) of Cheakamus Crossing were given every opportunity to make themselves aware of the quarry and asphalt plant operations and that I would continue to operate in their community, via a "disclosure statement" contained in their sales agreement. These residents were required to sign this disclosure statement in order to complete their purchases. Then, after their sales completed, a few of them decided that they did not like the disclosure statement or the quarry or the asphalt plant. They then began their campaign against the asphalt plant and quarry and me personally.
I am still wondering what I have done so wrong to receive the personal criticism by the local media, when I have followed and, in fact, exceeded all of the provincial and municipal rules and regulations that affect my operations.
I also wonder about the reasons for demonizing me and trying to destroy my livelihood and that of my employees and their families. The social media anti-asphalt campaigners are still out there and the local media continues to report their misinformation, without reproach. Perhaps they should be held accountable for their actions in the local media or in the courts of BC, and this is the beginning of that.
Whistler Aggregates and Alpine Paving