The town of Faro is “draconian” for shutting down a local outfitting business, says a Supreme Court judge.
Northstar Ventures has been embroiled in a spat with Faro since 2002, after the town discovered its owner, Angelica Knapp, had been living on land zoned as hinterland.
The zoning allows for commercial uses that conform with the wilderness character of the land, but it isn’t clear whether a dwelling can be built to support the business.
The case is now before Yukon’s Supreme Court.
Knapp’s lawyer claims the law provides for such a discretionary measure. The town disagrees.
But beyond this legal nitty-gritty, Justice Harvey Groberman took offence to the town’s treatment of Knapp after she didn’t remove the dwelling.
Not long after the business opened in 1998, the town became concerned about the residential structure. It feared Knapp was trying to move onto the land.
In August 2002, Knapp applied for a development permit in order to build a well for the dwelling, but that was denied by the Yukon government’s lands branch.
She also eventually lost her business licence.
According to Goberman, Faro didn’t have to be so tough on Knapp.
“They took the cheapest route,” said Goberman. “They cut off the people’s oxygen.”
“There was a dispute over bylaws, the town plays hardball and denied a business licence,” he said.
Goberman seemed to say that Faro should have prosecuted the business for breaching bylaws instead of taking its licence.
“If a company was breaking a parking lot bylaw, could you deny a business licence or development permit?” he asked.
Goberman expressed dismay that the matter had to enter the court in this way, but nonetheless it has brought a small detail of Faro’s zoning laws to the fore.
The judge now has to decide whether the hinterland zone’s accessory buildings clause allows for a residential building, as well as whether the town took the proper legal avenue to settle its grievances.
A judgement is expected Wednesday afternoon.
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