Marwell developer peeved about paving

Whitehorse is unfairly tarring a subdivision developer with paving costs in the Marwell industrial area, says the project manager.

Whitehorse is unfairly tarring a subdivision developer with paving costs in the Marwell industrial area, says the project manager.

The city has no right to include a road-paving requirement in its development agreement with Northern Vision Development Corporation, Tony Zedda told council on Monday.

There is no policy stating private developers have such an obligation, said Zedda.

“In our perspective, it’s troublesome that in the absence of specific standards and policies, the city’s administration feels that it is within their rights to dictate requirements to private landowners,” he said.

“Nowhere is it written the developer has to pay for paving, gutters and curbs.”

On May 8, council approved the construction of 47 mixed-use commercial/industrial lots in the Marwell area with the condition Northern Vision enter in development agreements with the city to ensure the subdivision and its infrastructure are built to city standards.

One of the agreements says the developer must carry out and pay for the paving of the roads within the subdivision area.

The cost of the work is pegged at $700,000, according to city engineering manager Wayne Tuck.

Northern Vision was led to believe this requirement was identified in the city’s so-called Servicing Standards Manual, said Zedda.

The manual is a city guide ensuring city infrastructure is built to a certain standard.

“Upon further investigation, it was revealed that no such requirement exists in the servicing manual or any other city of Whitehorse bylaw requirements or standards,” Zedda told council.

“It’s just something that the engineering department feels that they would like to have us do, but unless it’s a requirement, it should really be up to us as to whether we need to do it or not,” Zedda added in an interview.

Not true, said Tuck on Tuesday from his office.

Establishing paving requirements in agreements with developers has been standard procedure since the ‘70s, he said.

Because the roads will be transferred to the city for ownership and maintenance once the development is complete, the developer has to meet city standards as outlined in the development agreement.

“Council has always had the preference not to have gravel roads because they have dust and dirt and mud and potholes,” said Tuck.

“So the city said, ‘In new development areas we want these roads paved, because we don’t want to have the headache of maintaining them unpaved.’

“If the developer preferred to do something differently than what the city wants, then they have to take (maintenance) responsibility for their own property. That’s my position,” said Tuck.

The subdivision site is located along the riverfront next to Capital Towing Services’ car junkyard.

Northern Vision, a business group chaired by former NDP Premier Piers McDonald, will reserve a portion of the 47 lots fronting the river as residential “caretaker suites” for owners wishing to work out of their homes.

The lots should go on sale by the end of the year, said Zedda.

If Northern Vision is forced to pave the roads, it would like to have a local-improvement-charge agreement in place, said Zedda before council.

In that case, the city would finance the paving and then pass the costs on to future property owners through property taxes charged over an extended period of time.

Council now has to decide whether to force Northern Vision to pave, or not.

“Our issue is that there are no requirements here to pave,” said Zedda.

“If the city wants to willy-nilly make that requirement and make this subdivision the guinea pig to test if it’s right to do that, so be it.”

The decision will be made at next week’s council meeting.

Also under discussion is a second development agreement for the Marwell subdivision that demands notice be provided to all prospective lot buyers that noise and odours could emanate from a sewage lift station located in the area.

Northern Vision is currently in a dispute with the Yukon government over whether it can charge the city for a 10-metre public walkway along the riverfront edge of the property.