Len McGinnis’ efforts to clean up a property that doesn’t belong to him may have all been for nothing as a result of a recent Whitehorse order.
In November, after being released from a short stint in jail, McGinnis started cleaning up hundreds of tons of old cars, garbage and scrap metal that littered Backcountry Corners, a property at 92308 Alaska Highway owned by Jacine Fox.
His plan was to complete the cleanup, send a bill to Fox and then obtain title to the land if Fox could not pay.
McGinnis recently pegged the cleanup bill at $250,000.
The property had long been in violation of city maintenance laws, a situation that would usually prompt the city to send an independent cleanup contractor to bring the land up to code at the owner’s expense.
Because of McGinnis’ efforts, the city had planned to forgo this option provided that it saw constant improvement in McGinnis’ cleanup.
The effort has been financed by Walter Blackstock, who will own a percentage of McGinnis’ business as a result of the investment.
“He’s the bank book, I’m the muscle,” said McGinnis.
On Tuesday, the original offer was rescinded and McGinnis was given four days to completely clean the property before a contractor moved in.
It’s basically impossible to remove the remaining 80 to 100 tonnes of scrap in only four days, said McGinnis.
Since he started, McGinnis has taken six months to remove an estimated 168 tonnes of metal, as well as 103 cars.
Blackstock is worried that he’ll be “out of pocket” as a result of the city order.
Hoping to receive transfer of the land title as a result of the cleanup, McGinnis planned to use the land to set up an autobody restoration shop, a fabrication shop, storage space or a “big-ass house,” depending on what zoning will allow.
The pair said they believe the land title transfer is likely.
“At this point, I don’t think she has a choice,” said Blackstock.
The property is currently zoned for country residential, but McGinnis remains confident the property will be rezoned as commercial as a result of a crematorium being built across the street.
“Do you want to live across the street from a crematorium?” said Blackstock.
Not only would it throw a wrench into their original plans, Blackstock and McGinnis said they believe bringing in an independent cleanup contractor would cost Whitehorse taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars.
In January, the fee for likely bidder Kearah Environmental Contracting was estimated between $25,000 and $50,000.
While city-sanctioned cleanups should be footed by the owner, Blackstock speculated that Fox would be financially unable, leaving the bill to be paid out of the city treasury.
“If they go to an environmental cleanup, the costs could be astronomical,” he added.
Since he began his cleanup, the response from the community has been very supportive, especially in light of his recent incarceration, said McGinnis.
“Businesses and ordinary people have been congratulating me and honouring me, welcoming me into their businesses and offering me work,” he said.
“Before that it was like, ‘Holy fuck, here he comes.’”
The city’s sudden change of tune could be due to pressure from contractors who have run out of projects, speculated Blackstock.
“What we got here is a classic case of the big dog kicking the little dog’s ass,” said McGinnis.
“I don’t want to go back to prison, that’s why I’m (trying to) deal with this the correct way,” he added.