The purple cabin located at the corner of 6th Ave and Lambert Street in Whitehorse is the centre of a conflict between its owner, the man who lives there and the Yukon government, which owns the land it sits on.
Both the cabin’s owner, Leonard Tarka, and Eric DeLong, who has rented and lived in it for the past four years, received notices ordering them off the property on Oct. 1.
DeLong isn’t going anywhere, as he believes the way the cabin property was leased to Tarka in the early 1990s compels the Yukon government to renew the lease.
The lease was finalized in 1991 after Tarka proceeded through the process set out in the Yukon government’s squatter policy. In 1988, the squatter review panel recommended the life estate lease for the property; Piers McDonald, who was the minister of Community and Transportation Services at that time, approved it.
The lease states that the property is Tarka’s “To have and to hold for 30 years, or the life of the leasee from Oct. 1, 1991.” DeLong and Tarka interpret this to mean that the lease should be renewed because Tarka is still alive.
The Yukon government sent Tarka a letter in August advising him that the lease would not be reissued and he was to ensure removal of all structures prior to its expiry on Sept. 30.
The government’s position set out in the letter is that because the Yukon’s Lands Act does not allow for leases longer than 30 years, Tarka’s lease must be read as lasting for 30 years or less if he had died before it expired. The government maintains they are not obligated to renew the lease.
DeLong said he is not satisfied by this and thinks the decision not to renew the lease flouts the intent with which it was initially negotiated with the squatter review panel and approved by the minister. He questions why the lease was called a “life term lease” in the first place if it could be so easily terminated after 30 years.
Life term lease is not defined in the Squatter Policy or the Lands Act. DeLong noted that the policy did empower the review panel to set lease terms pending final approval from the minister.
The government also cites slope stability concerns based on a 2002 geohazard study in their letter to Tarka. DeLong presented a more recent 2012 report on the escarpment area. The executive summary of that report states that the cabin is within the moderate hazard zone and it appears compatible with the city’s plan for that part of downtown.
A map attached to the letter shows an existing berm, created by a footpath which DeLong said was once the access road to the Whitehorse airport, sitting between the cabin and the escarpment. The executive summary says maintenance to ensure the integrity of the berm is crucial to reducing hazards in the area.
Earth, which Delong said slid down the hill this spring, did not appear to cross the path.
The cabin property is now zoned for mixed commercial residential use rather than the protected environmental zoning of the other escarpment control zone areas. Despite this, the Yukon government letter to Tarka says the City of Whitehorse does not support a further lease on the site.
DeLong launched a Facebook page and accompanying GoFundMe campaign entitled “Save the Purple Cabin from Yukon Bureaucrats.” At press time 188 people had liked the page and $1,405 had been contributed.
He said he really likes living in the cabin because of its convenient downtown location mixed with rustic charm and nature right out the back door.
“Anyone who visits here kind of has the same feeling about it, just that it’s a little oasis right in downtown.”
Contact Jim Elliot at firstname.lastname@example.org