The land slated for infill by the city underwent environmental screening in 2004. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)

YESAB approval not needed for proposed Whitehorse infill project

Land in question underwent environmental assessment in 2004

A review by the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board (YESAB) is not required for infill lots proposed by the city, experts say.

The city has long held this position, but residents opposed to the infill project argue otherwise. This issue came up again at a recent public hearing on the issue, with delegates asking if a YESAB was required — and if not, why.

What requires a review by YESAB is determined by the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act (YESAA). An assessment is triggered when three specific — and complex — criteria are met. They boil down to the project taking place in the Yukon, not being an activity exempted under the act and the proposed project being something that requires a permit, said YESAB spokesperson Rob Yeomans.

In a written response to a question from Copperbelt South MLA Scott Kent, Energy, Mines, and Resources Minister Ranj Pillai said a YESAA review isn’t required because “an environmental assessment was conducted at the time of subdivision development” in 2004.

When asked the same question about the entire proposed infill project, Mike Gau, the city’s director of development services, took a similar line to the minister’s.

“(YESAB) has triggers for assessment based on activity proposed,” Gau said via email. “Transfer of land is not one of those triggers. There is no development being proposed by the city or the Yukon government.”

Martin Haefele, the designated officer manager for YESAB, said YESAB cannot speculate on this specific case because because there’s no proposal before the board. But he said that Pillai’s explanation for why an assessment is not needed in this case “sounds pretty reasonable.” Development of new subdivisions would likely require a review, he said.

Any environmental assessment within an existing subdivision would have been done when it was initially approved and created, Haefele said.

“I’m not aware what process they’ve gone through at the time (those particular) subdivisions were approved,” he said.

The issue came up again at the Nov.6 standing comittee meeting. Even some councillors appeared unclear about why a YESAB application did not need to be filed, including Jocelyn Curteanu, who asked for further clarification from city planner Kinden Kosick.

“A YESAB review is not required for this project, as there is no trigger under the act,” Kosick said. “There is an implied trigger of development, but no actual development is proposed other than the proposal to sell raw land. If a person made a land application with Yukon government to acquire land to do residential development, YESAB would be required.”

Contact Lori Fox at lori.fox@yukon-news.com

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