Changes to Kwanlin Dun land designation pass second reading

The Kwanlin Dun First Nation is one step closer to doing future development in the Chadburn Park and Hidden Lakes areas. But any work won't happen for a while yet.

The Kwanlin Dun First Nation is one step closer to doing future development in the Chadburn Park and Hidden Lakes areas. But any work won’t happen for a while yet.

On Monday night, a bylaw to remove greenspace designations from five Kwanlin Dun areas in the Official Community Plan passed second reading.

In the First Nation’s self-government agreement, three of these properties are listed for future residential or commercial development. These are all in the Chadburn Lake area.

The First Nation has no plans to develop these properties yet, Mike Ellis, acting manager of planning services, said Tuesday. These properties are outside city limits, away from municipal services. Developing them isn’t high on the First Nation’s list of priorities, he said.

But some Whitehorse residents are worried about losing valuable greenspace. Six of seven written submissions to the city opposed the change. Because of this, city administration recommended the three parcels in the Chadburn Lakes area be removed from the Chadburn Lake Park map.

Citizens weren’t the only ones concerned.

“I know that the OCP is only intended to be used as a guide, but I shudder every time I see the term ‘future development’ or ‘future planning’ used in place of ‘environmentally sensitive,’” Coun. Betty Irwin told council. “It doesn’t take much logic to realize that these two terms don’t even come close to meaning the same thing,” she said.

It’s more important to develop within city limits where city services are already available, she said. Kwanlin Dun should be considering developing in these areas, she said.

“I will be voting against this bylaw because I feel that the designated use should be changed in the OCP only when we receive some definite indications as to what the new plan uses are going to be,” she said.

Irwin was the only one to vote against the bylaw.

Until the First Nation passes its own Lands Act, any zoning changes would have to be approved by the city of Whitehorse, Mike Gau, director of development services, told council.

This change gives more clarity to Whitehorse residents who think these areas are designated for greenspace, said Coun. John Streicker. But the city should get more information from the First Nation before this bylaw is passed, he said.

This is really an issue of jurisdiction, said Coun. Kirk Cameron, reminding his fellow councillors that the First Nation needs to be respected as a constitutionally-recognized government with protected rights to these lands.

“Jurisdiction means they can pass laws that mean that their laws trump our bylaws. It’s that simple,” said Cameron. “They have asked us if we would be so kind until they put their laws in place to designate this land in such a way that leaves it neutral. And I, frankly, want to support that. Because it’s their land and their jurisdiction.”

“We have to get with the program, it’s that simple,” he said.

A full ministerial review needs to be completed before the bylaw has third and final reading.

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