City, territory sign new deal to nix land mix ups

After a string of intergovernmental communication foul-ups have stalled land development, Yukon Premier Dennis Fentie and Whitehorse mayor Ernie…

After a string of intergovernmental communication foul-ups have stalled land development, Yukon Premier Dennis Fentie and Whitehorse mayor Ernie Bourassa have taken action.

They’ve signed a protocol.

Specifically, a land development protocol.

“We wanted to streamline the process and to clear up a lot of public confusion,” said Bourassa.

“What this does is let the city do a one-stop-shop, if you will, in terms of all the consultation and design work.”

The agreement spells out how the two governments will split residential, commercial and industrial lot development within Whitehorse.

Under it, the city decides what development is needed, where it will happen and when.

It is also responsible for planning, engineering and technical studies, environmental assessments and public consultation.

And the city will try to keep a two-year supply of different types of lots on hand.

Doing all this won’t cost the city anything.

The Yukon government will fully reimburse the city for its assessments and public consultation.

Meanwhile, the territory will head detailed design work, construction and disposition of developed lots, pending city council approvals.

The five-page agreement comes after months of meetings between city and territory officials.

It was triggered by a failed 135-lot subdivision plan in Whitehorse Copper last year. There, the territory butted heads with residents over a proposed Alaska Highway extension.

The city was caught in the middle.

“None of us came away with a good feeling from that one,” said Bourassa. “The government of Yukon was consulting on the design and then it had to come to council for zoning and there was all kinds of public input then and it just didn’t seem to end.”

Then, in November, confusion between the city and the territory halted a proposed 280-lot residential subdivision in Porter Creek.

After spending nine months planning and holding public consultations, city councillors realized the territory had already made conflicting promises on the same parcel of land — offering it to Yukon College and also developing plans to turn it into a park.

The newly signed agreement only applies when the territory is developing Crown land.

Currently, there are no rules defining how private developers access land. However, under the agreement the territory must consult the city before handing land to a third party.

That means the city won’t be caught unaware by developers who come to council brandishing letters from Yukon ministers granting them access to Crown land.

That is what happened when would-be developer Daryl Novakowski approached council with a blueprint to develop 44 residential lots in a Porter Creek greenspace.

He was armed with a letter from Resources minister Archie Lang granting him permission to ask council to rezone the land.

“Through this protocol with the city of Whitehorse, we’re developing solutions to help satisfy the demand for land and assist our local economy to keep growing,” said Fentie in a release.