City puts axe through woodcutters’ business

If you're having a hard time finding that woodchopper's truck filled with cordwood this winter it's probably because bylaw officers are scaring them off.

If you’re having a hard time finding that woodchopper’s truck filled with cordwood this winter it’s probably because bylaw officers are scaring them off.

From the window of his Ogilvie Street pawn shop, Needful Things owner Robert Huesler has watched several woodcutters get ticketed.

He regularly used to see wood trucks in the Canadian Tire and Qwanlin Mall parking lots.

Today, they are scarce.

That’s because Whitehorse has started ticketing woodcutters selling their cords from these two locations.

Under section 206 of the Yukon Motor Vehicles Act, “No person shall display any goods for sale, offer any goods for sale or sell any goods on a highway.”

And, according to the city bylaw department, Fourth Avenue is a highway, even though the speed limit is 50 kilometres an hour, outside the school zone, and the street is lined with shops and offices.

“Technically, if you look at the definition of highway (in the Motor Vehicles Act) it is any cul-de-sac, boulevard, thoroughfare, street or causeway,” said senior bylaw officer Dave Pruden.

“But we don’t bug people if they live on (and are selling wood from), say, Centennial,” he added.

But that definition doesn’t sit well with Huesler, who questioned the bylaw department about its regulations.

“The bylaw officer said Fourth Avenue is a highway,” he said. “I asked him, ‘If I live on Fourth Avenue on private property, can he come into my private property (and give me a ticket?).

“The officer didn’t answer though. He just said, ‘Get the hell out of here. Do you want me to call the RCMP?’”

Bylaw is simply ensuring the system is fair for those who get the proper permits and licenses, said Pruden.

The fine for selling goods on a highway is $50. But if the vendor doesn’t have a business license, it goes up to $200.

A woodcutter who regularly shops from Needful Things recently received a $200 fine for selling at the Qwanlin Mall, said Huesler.

Now, he hasn’t been seen at either parking lot.

“He’s lost 85 per cent of his business compared to last year,” said Huesler.

“He and his partner are going on social assistance.”

Normally, wood-selling along Fourth Avenue isn’t an issue, but this year there have been two that have been particularly “problematic,” said Pruden.

“The business licences for Canadian Tire, Walmart and Extra Foods aren’t to sell wood. So unless these businesses get a permit, (it’s not allowed),” he said.

The city began handing out tickets this year when they received complaints from other city woodcutters.

“Competitors call us about others who aren’t abiding by the rules,” said Pruden.

“We’re trying to equalize the fairness of it.”

But a level playing field isn’t always best for those who depend on wood to heat their homes in the winter, said woodcutter Rex Brown.

Brown only does orders by word of mouth or telephone, but has noticed there are fewer woodcutters selling their wood from parking lots in town.

“People want wood this way,” said Brown.

“I just delivered wood to some people who were out of heat for the last two days because they couldn’t find wood for sale in town.”

Woodcutting is a hard job and people don’t get paid enough as it is, he added.

“I don’t agree with the city giving people tickets who are trying to sell wood (from these parking lots).”

But Scott Lindsay, who also sells wood by word of mouth, doesn’t believe vendors should be allowed to sell wood at the Qwanlin Mall.

“I have to pay for insurance and a business licence,” he said.

“If anyone can sell wood wherever, then it undermines what I do.”

The city should designate a specific place where woodcutters are allowed to sell wood, much like the Fireweed Market in the summer, said Huesler.

He’s been living in the city for 28 years and hasn’t seen any problems with woodcutters selling their wood in Whitehorse.

“For me, it’s just this gut feeling that everything in the city has to be tightened, like cities down south where nothing is allowed except paying taxes,” he said.

“It’s not why I live in Whitehorse.”

Contact Vivian Belik at