Once again, Archie Lang finds himself at the nexus of a land controversy.
This isn’t the first time the guy has found himself associated with a dubious land decision.
It’s not the second.
Or the third.
Or the fourth.
In fact, the guy has been involved in so many imbroglios he’s becoming cabinet’s poster boy for bad judgment.
Is the guy a slow learner?
Does he lack the most rudimentary political instincts?
Is he simply contemptuous of government process?
Or is there something else at play here?
What is clear is that he gave developer Daryl Novakowski, on ministerial letterhead, permission to approach council to build 44 housing lots on Crown land within Whitehorse’s Porter Creek subdivision.
Lang called it a simple “comfort letter.”
“I write to advise that the Yukon government, as the landowner, has afforded its consent to Mr. Daryl Novakowski to bring forward such an application for the city’s consideration.”
The land is zoned greenspace in the city’s official community plan.
There has been tremendous opposition to lot development in greenspace in the city, especially in Porter Creek.
The land abuts Holly Street, which is in Porter Creek Centre.
Lang is the MLA for Porter Creek Centre.
And months ago, Whitehorse officials asked the Yukon government, as landowner, to turn the land into a park.
Lang, for some reason, knew nothing about this.
“No, the land has been sitting there and nobody’s approached me on a park,” said Lang. “As far as the city approaching us, I have nothing on record that says they approached us for a park there.”
Strange that a lands minister and MLA knows nothing about such an important chunk of land in his riding.
But there’s more to this story.
Lang’s department has been trying to get the Holly Street property developed for months.
In fact, there’s a series of letters, dating back to November, from Lang’s lands branch to city officials asking them to put the Holly Street property forward for possible development.
In all correspondence, the city has refused.
“The land is currently zoned parks and recreation,” said a November 10 letter from Dennis Shewfelt, the city’s then-director of operations. “The proposed new zoning for this area designates the land as environmental protection.”
On February 20 — in response to a request from the lands branch, which, for some reason, it has not released — Shewfelt reiterated the city was focused on lot-development option in Porter Creek D and the so-called Porter Creek Bench.
The Holly Street rezoning was clearly not in the cards.
Enter Novakowski, who sought the Yukon Party nomination in Copperbelt.
Novakowski came to an “arrangement” with territorial officials, the details of which were initially “confidential” and then amended, the next day, to “lengthy and hideous” and something he “did not want to get into.”
He approached council out of the blue, armed with Lang’s letter, and put the Holly Street land back in play.
“There will be debate down the road and, I guess, at that point if he’s successful, then step two is asking how this will unfold,” said Lang.
So, at this point, it looks like the Yukon government is meddling in city affairs, using Novakowski as a pawn to get a specific chunk of land in play.
And there are more troubling elements to this business.
Lang’s twin brother, Dan, is a Yukon real-estate agent who has recently been very aggressive in pushing for lot development in the city.
Dan Lang recently participated in a city meeting to refine a city bylaw to protect greenspace and set limits on city development in protected areas.
He vigorously opposed the bylaw and clearly wanted no restriction on city lot development, according to people at the meeting.
He also voiced this view on a CBC Radio One open line show on Thursday.
Dan Lang is currently vice-president of the Yukon Party.
So what’s really going on here?
What grand schemes are playing out?
The whole affair is, frankly, very troubling. (RM)