City councillor Doug Graham tried his best.
He made yet another impassioned speech to council Monday — this one lasting three and a half minutes — about the duty of the city to stand up to the territorial government on “unfair” land allocations in Whitehorse.
As usual, the other councillors were not to be swayed.
All (with the exception of Jan Stick, who along with mayor Ernie Bourassa was absent) voted in favour of amending the Official Community Plan to allow for country residential development on land zoned for a golf course.
The amendment passed third reading, and Jeff Luehmann is now one step closer to building Fox Haven Estates, a 27-lot subdivision, on land he originally leased from the government for the purpose of adding an extra nine holes to his Meadow Lakes golf course.
“This is not a good decision, this isn’t a good bylaw,” said Graham.
“I don’t have any problem with the development, it’s the way land was acquired; it’s not right and we shouldn’t be going along with it.
“If we continue to allow the territorial government to allocate parcels of land throughout the city of Whitehorse like they’re doing with this one, then what kind of city do we have?” he said.
“We’ve got a responsibility to look after the city, the land and the people in it.
“Think about the people; that’s all I can say is, think about the people.”
In 2003, Luehmann acquired a lease with an option to purchase for 23.6 hectares next to his Meadow Lakes Golf and Country Club for the purpose of extending the course.
This year however, Luehmann decided there was no market for an additional nine holes.
So he made an application to rezone the land and use it for a residential subdivision.
Graham has argued for months that the land should be put back on the open market to allow other developers a chance to bid for it as residential property.
The other councillors have said the land allocation procedure is a Yukon government responsibility and outside of the municipality’s jurisdiction, a point made once again by councillor Mel Stehelin this week.
“I have no problem at all because it is way beyond our control as to how this all happened,” he said.
“This fellow does have rights to the land and he’s going to exercize his privileges.”
Graham made it clear in his statement that he didn’t agree.
“I’ve heard the arguments put forward by other councillors that it isn’t our problem, that the distribution of land isn’t our problem, that YTG made that decision and it’s a territorial responsibility and we shouldn’t pay any attention to it as a city,” he said.
“But I disagree. We have to be able to say to the territorial government, ‘This isn’t right. We’re not going to rezone this land. If you want it rezoned, it should be put up for public tender.’”
The Kwanlin Dun First Nation has said it applied for the land for residential development but were denied and told it was to be used as a golf course.
“Is it right that we now zone that land for residential knowing that Kwanlin Dun doesn’t have a chance to get it?” Graham asked.
“Northern Vision Development Corporation might have an interest — they don’t have a chance. Nobody has a chance to get that land.”
It’s a big step, said Luehmann after Monday’s meeting.
“I’m pretty confident now, because obviously council just spoke their mind … so I think we’re OK,” he said, admitting he still has a long way to go.
“I don’t even know if we’re halfway there.”
Luehmann’s development application still must pass a zoning bylaw amendment. The zoning bylaw is similar to the Official Community Plan, but is more detailed.
Then it must face subdivision approval.
He hopes the whole process will be complete before the municipal election on October 19th.
“I hope all these people get re-elected, but that’s a scary thought to not have it passed before the elections,” he said.
He also has to buy the land from the Yukon government, a sale contingent on the city approving the zoning changes.
Luehmann said he hasn’t yet been given a price for the land, but said two independent appraisals commissioned by the Yukon government have put it at $117,000 and $158,000 respectively.
“They’ve got another third-independent appraisal, so I don’t know if they’re going to take an average,” he said.
The subdivision building costs could be anywhere from $1.5 million to $2 million, he said.
“A lot of it is going to depend on whether we have to do the greenspace study. I don’t know what figure would be attached to that, but it wouldn’t be cheap.”
The city is yet to figure out whether greenspace bylaw 2006-11, passed in a city referendum last month, will apply to Luehmann’s development.