Photo: Evan Matthews
Two of the eight slash piles during the December 2016 burn at 202 Ash Street.

by EVAN MATTHEWS, editor

There is one aspect to the Ash Street burn not being discussed.

At its Mar. 14 meeting, Council decided to grant a burn permit extension to the property owners and burn contractor of 202 Ash; symbolically choosing development over the concerns of Valemount residents.

While locals bicker about how this situation gets sorted — the issue creates divide, to a degree.

People get passionate, they get heated, and they argue. Some say, ‘let the piles burn, get them out of here,’ while others say, ‘this (could) cause health concerns for kids and seniors, it lowers quality of life.’

I’m not as passionate as some on this topic, but I see the two sides to this.

However, I do have one question: where has the property owner been throughout this process? From what I’ve gathered, there hasn’t been so much as a name on a public Village document in reference to 202 Ash Street.

I recall, at some point, seeing a numbered company from Alberta listed as the property owner, which doesn’t say much.

My point?

This property owner isn’t someone you’re going to run into at the grocery store.

It isn’t someone you’re going to share a beer with at the brewery.

This is someone who is trying to enter Valemount’s community for financial gain, not to say doing so would be a bad thing.

But we’re talking about the quality of our air. We’re talking about people’s lives — people who live here.

Granted, Council had to make a decision, and regardless, not everybody would be happy with the choice. This is the unfortunate reality governance creates for politicians.

But what factored into Council’s decision?

To me, it appears as though not much factored into Council’s decision at all, aside from money. The property owners won’t pay the tab for an alternative solution, so there is no alternative solution, according to (majority of) Council.

What a load of… hooey.

First off, we have a developer coming into the community and has been able to avoid all accountability after, at the very least, contributing to the original air quality issue. Residents haven’t even gotten so much as an apology.

But hey, these people bought property.

Then, after residents raise hell about no longer wanting to breathe this toxic crap in, the property owners, essentially, say they aren’t willing to pay the tab for any alternative to burning.

I thought the positives to this situation were economic development and an investor with deep pockets.

Now I’m wondering where — and if — local people are going to see the economic development, or any economic benefit from having this investor in the community.

The point is, it doesn’t seem to matter who you are or how long you’ve lived here.

You can bicker with the other locals, but your concerns will likely fall on deaf (Council) ears, unless of course you’re concerned about the same things developers are.

If this burn permit extension decision didn’t prove this to the electorate, nothing will.