The City of Whitehorse is just one bylaw reading away from purchasing one of the last remaining escarpment area homes.
In a 5-2 vote at Whitehorse city council’s July 12 meeting, members passed the first two readings of the bylaw for the purchase of 7220 Seventh Avenue and approved the budget change of $380,000 for the $250,000 purchase and clean up of the property.
Councillors Dan Boyd and Samson Hartland voted against the bylaw and budget change.
The property is one of the last remaining sites identified under the 1970s-era Escarpment Land Acquisition Program that saw the city purchase properties near the downtown escarpment.
The program was aimed at moving residents from the area due to concerns over drainage, erosion and potential mudslides of the clay cliffs. A total of 80 properties — including 7220 Seventh Avenue — were identified for the program with the purchase price based on fair market value. Some owners held out and remained on their properties, opting not to be part of the program.
The impacted area is now zoned as environmental protection with no housing permitted on it.
In the case of 7220 Seventh Avenue, the owner passed away in 2019 with city administration working to negotiate the purchase with the executor of the estate. While an acquisition bylaw for the city to purchase the property for $333,000 had come forward to council in March, council members voted to refer it back to administration for further review and negotiation.
A purchase price of $250,000 is now on the table for the property.
Both Boyd and Hartland argued the price should still be lower.
“I think it’s not quite fair to the (city) taxpayer,” Boyd said.
Boyd’s vote came a week after he had initially indicated that while he had reservations about the purchase, he would “reluctantly support” it.
Ahead of the vote though, he noted he believes in fairness to both city taxpayers and the property owner.
He pointed out there will be a large cleanup bill for the property and argued some of those costs should have been deducted from the purchase price.
As described in the report to council: “Structures remaining on the property after the city acquires ownership will be removed, but they contain hazardous materials that will require special handling and disposal. Backfilling and revegetation will also be required.”
Similarly, Hartland noted his thoughts that the city could have achieved what it wanted with the property purchase for less money.
Other council members, however, were vocal in their support of the purchase.
Coun. Jocelyn Curteanu was quick to note if the city holds off on the purchase to negotiate the price down, demolition costs could rise and impact the cost further.
Coun. Laura Cabott, meanwhile, pointed out that in March council had sent the matter back to administration to negotiate a lower price. That lower price was negotiated and council should accept what negotiators on both sides had come to.
“Let’s move forward,” she said.
Third reading of the bylaw for the purchase is expected to come forward July 26.
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