City councillors are virtually unanimous in their approval of developer Jeff Luehmann’s bid to build 27
country residential lots on land zoned for nine holes of golf.
Mayor Ernie Bourassa and six of the seven councillors confirmed they will vote in favour of
rezoning the 23.6-hectare parcel of
land next to Meadow Lakes Golf and Country Club, effectively removing a major roadblock
to Luehmann’s controversial
But concerns have been raised as to how the golf course’s co-owner is getting approval to build the bundle of lots, dubbed Fox Haven Estates.
Luehmann was granted the Crown land by the Yukon
government in 2003 with the
understanding it would become an extension of the golf course.
Kwanlin Dun First Nation also applied for the land while settling its land claims, but was denied.
The First Nation was told it could not have the parcel for
residential development because it was to be used as an extension of the golf course.
But now, three years later, Luehmann has changed his mind and wants to use it for residential development.
Many feel as though the land should be put back on the open market to allow other developers, including the Kwanlin Dun, the chance to bid for it as residential property.
The city has a responsibility to stand up to the Yukon government by refusing Luehmann’s zoning change request — a condition needed before construction can begin, said councillor Doug Graham.
But, the land allocation procedure is a Yukon government responsibility and is outside of the municipality’s jurisdiction, say the other councillors.
“It’s not my responsibility as a councillor to say, ‘You didn’t acquire the land in a manner that I feel is appropriate, therefore I won’t rezone it’,” said councillor Bev Buckway.
“I have no control over how he gets the land — YTG does, talk to your MLA,” she said.
“I don’t think it’s in the city’s mandate to try and second guess all the deals that were ever made,” said councillor Mel Stehelin.
“I think the merits of his application have to be judged on what the impact will be on the city and what the impact will be on neighbours,” he said.
Graham finds these reasons unacceptable.
“That’s what I consider ducking your own responsibilities — that’s exactly what it is,” he said.
“We’ve got a responsibility to everybody in the city. You can either face up to it or you can do exactly what I think most of (the other councillors) are doing, and that’s ducking it.”
Graham remains steadfast in his opposition, and says he will vote against the zoning amendment when it comes before
council next week.
But he’ll most likely be the
“Maybe some people don’t agree with how (Luehmann) got it, but it’s his land now and he can do what he wants with it as far as I’m concerned,” said councillor Dave Austin.
An important consideration for councillors is the Yukon government leased the land to Luehmann with the option to purchase — something he can do at any time.
This provides him with the option to back out of the golf course idea and do something else by buying the land, said councillor Dave Stockdale.
“When Jeff confirmed the fact there was a lease-to-purchase agreement with the government, then obviously there was a potential for (the golf course) not to be an economically viable venture and that he could purchase the property,” said Stockdale.
“As a business person it was a smart move.”
If Luehmann exercises his option to buy the land and the city denies the zoning amendment, it will be totally useless accept for a golf course, said Bourassa.
“By turning it down, city council would be saying we want another nine holes of golf — basically that’s what we’d be telling people,” he said.
“That land will be sit there vacant for ever and ever and nothing will ever be used of it until the population of Whitehorse quadruples and we have enough people then for a golf course,” she said.
Councillors also say that if the land were to be purchased by another developer, there would be no way to access the property as it is completely cut off by property owned by Meadow Lakes.
“If (Luehmann) didn’t buy it, who would?” asked Bourassa. “Maybe Kwanlin Dun, but they wouldn’t have any access to the property.
“It’s clearly a land-locked
parcel,” he said.
“Whether (Luehmann) would be willing to grant easement of access to that property would be highly debatable — I mean what motivation would he have to do that? That’s the question one could ask.
“You’re not likely to be friendly when you’ve been kicked in the head.
“If I had a piece of private property, what would motivate me to allow someone to drive across it unless I’m putting a tollbooth on it?”
In June, the Yukon environmental and socio-economic assessment board recommended the development go through.
If the city approves the zoning change, the Yukon government will make the final decision on whether it can go ahead.
Graham insists the process should get stonewalled right now.
“It’s a tough decision, no doubt about it,” he said. “If you actually have to sit out there and say ‘No’ to somebody, that’s hard to do.
“But to me it’s still the right thing.”