Hot springs residents still steamed over condo plans

Yet another public meeting about development plans at the Takhini Hot Springs site descended into heated exchanges this week.

Yet another public meeting about development plans at the Takhini Hot Springs site descended into heated exchanges this week.

It was standing room only at the Hootalinqua Fire Hall for a meeting on Tuesday evening that topped two and a half hours.

Back in November, tempers flared during Brad Cathers’ constituency meeting at the same location and over the same issue.

But this time, the proponent of the development was around to field questions.

Garry Umbrich spent a good portion of the evening trying his best to address the accusations that flew from all corners of the room.

The purpose of the meeting was to give more information about Umbrich’s application for a zoning change at the Takhini Hot Springs site.

Umbrich and the group of lot owners at the site want to see regulation changes so that bare land condominium units are allowed. As it stands, only strata units are allowed.

Umbrich explained that strata units require three-dimensional surveys, which are expensive.

The units need to be built before a bank can provide financing, he said.

But with bare land condominiums, two-dimensional surveys are required, which means financing can be obtained ahead of time, before construction.

But on Tuesday evening, many residents weren’t interested in hearing about condo terminology.

“What does this bring to the community?” one person yelled.

Although bare land condominium units would be more profitable in the future, Umbrich said he would carry on with strata units if he had to.

The consensus among dissenting residents boiled down to concerns about development plans at the site.

Last month, Umbrich held an open house to present resort plans that have been in the works for over 15 years.

Umbrich and his wife, who own four of the 10 lots on the site, want to transform the hot springs from their current incarnation as a concrete recreational pool to a more natural-looking design, like the Liard Hot Springs in British Columbia.

The new design will see the construction of three or four smaller pools with temperatures between 40 and 42 degrees. In comparison, the current pools are between 35 and 39 degrees.

Most of that parcel of land, about one hectare in size, will be enclosed in a fence that won’t be visible from any of the pools.

Six of the 10 lots on the site have been sold to numbered companies.

But some residents are concerned about seeing houses crop up next to their properties in the near future.

One point of contention has been whether Umbrich has the right to cluster a large number of residences on a single lot.

According to the Hot Springs Road local area plan, up to two residences are allowed on a single lot. But the zoning allows for the owners to transfer this allowance to adjoining lots.

This is what Umbrich and other owners have done. One lot allows for the construction of three residences, while one allows for five and another allows for nine.

Jerome McIntyre, director of the land planning branch, said he’d never seen zoning quite like what exists at the Hot Springs site in his career.

“This special provision is terrifying to the public,” one woman said.

“We’re scared of the implications. What will this site look like in the future?”

The zoning at the site also stipulates that a commercial business must take up 51 per cent of a lot before a residence can be built.

One resident at the meeting wondered how big a business would be if it took up more space than nine houses on a single lot.

Umbrich said he was willing to sit down with concerned residents to hear them out, and talk about what those residences could look like.

He’s also mentioned in the past that the site may feature other amenities such as a bakery, a pub or laundromat. It might also include greenhouses and gardens on the site to grow food.

But his ultimate goal, he said at last month’s open house, is to one day build a five-diamond high-end destination spa, one that would “put Yukon on the world map.”

The zoning application still needs to be approved by cabinet. The deadline to submit written comments is April 8.

Contact Myles Dolphin at

myles@yukon-news.com

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