Land disposition process unfair, says Graham

There are major problems with the territory’s land-disposition process within Whitehorse, said city councillor Doug Graham.

There are major problems with the territory’s land-disposition process within Whitehorse, said city councillor Doug Graham.

And the existing land-development protocol agreement won’t solve these problems.

The issue comes on the heels of council’s March 25 decision to nix a rezoning application from Barry Bellchambers.

The developer wanted land at the intersection of Range Road and Mountainview Drive rezoned to permit an expansion of his Takhini Mobile Home Park.

Before voting down Bellchambers’ application, Graham said council shouldn’t allow the territory to continue directing city development.

On Monday the issue surfaced in the legislature.

“The development was halted because of the minister’s top-down approach, and it is unfortunate that the proponent was caught in the middle,” Liberal MLA Gary McRobb told the house.

“Why is the minister not living up to (the land development protocol agreement)?”

“We are living up to the agreement,” said Energy, Mines and Resources Minister Archie Lang.

“Archie’s right, partially, but his problem is that he’s lumping all land development and all land sales together,” Graham said Monday night.

“And he’s saying to the city that this land protocol looks after these issues, but it doesn’t.”

Under the land protocol, the territory is required to consult the city before disposing of raw land within its boundaries.

But the protocol only deals with residential properties, not commercial properties, said Graham.

“And the understanding is that with commercial properties, as long as the property meets the OCP regulation, YTG feels that they can sell the land without any kind of a competitive process,” he continued.

“And I disagree.”

“The problem is caused by the lands branch minister doling out land in the back room to selected people,” said McRobb.

“And when they go before the city to have the land rezoned and approved it hits a brick wall — and for good reason.”

The protocol was established in June 2006 to prevent these types of dispositions, said McRobb, citing the sale of lots at Fish Lake and the attempt to transfer the forestry reserve on the Mayo Road as examples.

“And there’s the Holly Street land that was given to a Yukon Party supporter that completely contradicted correspondence from the government to the city that designated that land as park use only.”

Lang refused comment for this story.

Instead, the paper was handed a copy of the land-development protocol.

Although the government did contact city planners, it did not consult with council, said Graham.

“They spoke to the city’s planning department and they were probably told that the land could be used for a trailer park, but that it would require a zoning change,” he said.

“You almost feel obligated to pass these things because the developer’s done a lot of work; they’ve applied for the land, the territorial government has agreed and then the last step in the process is bringing it to the city of Whitehorse and having them approve a zoning application.

“And to me that’s not the way it should be.”

The city should be more involved in commercial land disposition and that land should be sold in a fair manner, said Graham.

“I take a look at this land here and whether I agree with the development itself is immaterial because nobody else had the opportunity to purchase that land at that particular time,” he said.

“And that’s my problem.”

All available land should be identified and sold in some sort of lottery or bid process, he added.

Two weeks ago, the city sent a letter to the territorial government requesting that these issues be resolved.

The city has yet to receive a reply.

“The question about how the protocol works and the individual he is quoting is just one person on the city council and also one person in the city government,” said Lang in the legislature.

“The protocol does work.”

“It takes more than one councillor to defeat a motion,” said Graham.

“I think that’s the part that Archie seems to have missed because it was defeated, so there’s obviously a number of councillors that feel the same way.”

It’s not just a problem with council, he said.

Some members of the public are very concerned about the way these commercial blocks are being sold.

“It’s a problem for a lot of folks in Whitehorse,” said Graham.

“Land is a precious resource to most Yukoners and to have it disposed of without letting everyone have a fair shot at it is wrong. It’s just not right.”

With files from Genesee Keevil.