Government considers private development of McGowan lands

The Yukon government is exploring the possibility of enlisting the private sector to develop the McGowan lands in Mount Lorne.

The Yukon government is exploring the possibility of enlisting the private sector to develop the McGowan lands in Mount Lorne.

The government is building on a promise made in 2011 to offer more agricultural and rural residential land to Yukoners, said Energy, Mines and Resources Minister Scott Kent.

He said the private sector made it clear it wanted to be a part of the development.

“We feel this is an opportunity for the private sector developers to attain this land through a public, price-driven tender process, for them to develop it and go through the necessary approvals,” he said.

“It’s something that has been successful in other jurisdictions and we want to try to emulate that here.”

It wouldn’t be the first time the Yukon government used the private sector to build a new subdivision. The same model was used about 25 years ago to build Pine Ridge, Kent said.

But the government has had little success in getting residents on board to support development in Mount Lorne. It has been trying to develop the McGowan lands, an area south of Cowley Creek, since 1995.

In 2010, it presented the hamlet with a technical feasibility study that suggested creating between 70 and 140 lots on the land.

But many residents were concerned the project went against the hamlet’s local area plan, which states there cannot be any rural residential subdivision in Mount Lorne.

So they asked the government to review its study, and almost five years later it came back with a new proposal.

It included a “loop” concept would have yielded between 90 and 95 country residential lots, and 12 to 14 agricultural lots, and a “pod” concept would have yielded fewer residential lots but larger agricultural ones.

Both were heavily criticized by residents during a public consultation in November.

“The proposed McGowan subdivision is a disaster for both residents and wildlife, their corridors and their habitat, within the Cowley, Aspen and Kookatsoon Lakes watersheds and surrounding areas,” wrote one resident who has lived in the area for 43 years.

Al Foster, the former deputy chair of the Mount Lorne advisory council, said no one was notified of the government’s new plans until Oct. 15.

“The last day that council actually has any power – and that’s the day we get the news release,” he said.

“It really threw us off balance. No one can speak on behalf of the community until mid- November, because that’s when the new council will be sworn in.

“I’m hearing from a lot of residents that they want to throw their hands in the air, they don’t have a voice.”

Mount Lorne’s local area plan allows for up to eight lots to be developed every year, to assure a steady but not overwhelming population growth.

But the government has only developed nine in the past 25 years, according to a letter Kent sent the Association of Yukon Communities in August.

“We’ve always wanted to maintain a rural lifestyle within the hamlet – a subdivision doesn’t do that,” Foster said.

“We don’t get the sense they’re taking any consideration from us. Makes you wonder what the purpose of the local advisory council is.”

If the government decides to use the private sector to develop the McGowan lands, there will be opportunities for more public consultation with residents, Kent said.

No decision will be made until a 30-day consultation period with the Kwanlin Dun First Nation, Carcross/Tagish First Nation and Ta’an Kwach’an Council comes to an end next month.

Contact Myles Dolphin at

myles@yukon-news.com

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