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Judge halts McLean Lake development

The McLean Lake Residents’ Association is lauding a recent Supreme Court judgment that stopped a quarry and cement batch plant from setting up…

The McLean Lake Residents’ Association is lauding a recent Supreme Court judgment that stopped a quarry and cement batch plant from setting up near Sleeping Giant Hill.

“We’re pleased with the outcome,” said association president Skeeter Miller-Wright on Wednesday.

Justice Ron Veale found that a city bylaw allowing the cement batch plant in the McLean Lake area was invalid.

“There is no authorization to proceed with the McLean Lake quarry development at this time,” Veale said in his 31-page judgment, which was publicly released Tuesday.

The case was brought before the courts last month by the McLean Lake Residents’ Association, which is opposed to the batch plant.

Both the territory and the city governments defended their decision to allow the development.

Veale found that the Yukon government acted reasonably in its decision and met its responsibility.

However, the city didn’t fare so well.

Veale found that hydrological and hydrogeological testing should have been done prior to passing the bylaw.

In the city’s Official Community Plan, there is a specific policy for dealing with gravel extraction in the McLean Lake area.

The policy states that water testing should be done prior to further gravel extraction.

There are no “vague words,” the testing is “mandatory,” Veale said in his judgment.

Whitehorse Mayor Bev Buckway is taking the judgment in stride.

“I don’t view that as a big negative decision,” Buckway said after city council’s meeting on Tuesday.

“Obviously Justice Veale has reviewed the case carefully.

“There are a number of items in the document that he was supportive of and, of course, there was one that he wasn’t supportive of.”

City council did not receive a copy of the judgment until Tuesday evening so it had not had a chance to discuss it, said Buckway.

However, council will continue to work on the issue, given the work the developer has done so far.

“I would assume that that would be the mode to go. Try to get the study done and find out if everything is OK.

“And if it’s not OK then we want to know that too.

“It was never our intent to do something that was harmful,” she added.

Council believed there was no need for a hydrological study, due to the fact that the operation didn’t need a water licence.

Veale disagreed.

Council and city management will meet on Wednesday to determine how to proceed.

“Now it’s in the city’s hands,” said Miller-Wright.

“If they decide they still want to develop the site they’ll have to get the water work done.”

Normally the developer pays for the expensive water testing, he said.

“They didn’t respond to public pressure, now we’ll see how they respond to judicial pressure.

“It will be interesting to see how they handle this.”

Meanwhile, the McLean Lake Residents’ Association will continue to oppose development of the site.

The area should be protected as a recreational site, similar to the one around Chadburn Lake, said Miller-Wright.

Maintaining a pristine area near to the city’s centre is very important, he said.

The idea was always on the backburner, but stopping the development was the first priority.

“The bylaw has been quashed. Now we can start to develop the idea of protecting the area for recreational and esthetic purposes.”