A city plan to sell two lots on Ogilvie Street in downtown Whitehorse sparked some unexpected questioning of the city’s bylaw process on Tuesday night.
The plan would see the sale of two lots near the clay cliffs. The city purchased these lots and other nearby land at market rates in the 1970s, amid concerns that the land could one day be buried by a mud slide.
Now, with new engineering reports showing that the lots are not actually in danger, the city wants to sell some of them.
But former local resident Patricia Ellis doesn’t want to see that happen.
In a letter delivered to city council at last Tuesday’s meeting, Ellis explained that her family was one of the ones asked to move out of the area in the ‘70s. When they sold their home, they were told that the city would permanently ban construction in the expropriated zone. She wants the city to put the planned sale on hold until all former residents can be contacted to voice their opinion.
And she’s not alone in her concern. Sally Wright, a representative of the Escarpment Parks Society, spoke at council on Tuesday, expressing her frustration that the city would plan to sell land that local residents thought would be permanently protected green space.
The society views the land as “a park in waiting,” she said, and was in the process of drafting their own plans for the area, which would include community garden space or a dirt jump park for local mountain bikers.
The city doesn’t need to hold a public input session to approve the sale of the land. In his report to council, Coun. Mike Gladish put forward a motion to move the planned sale into the bylaw process.
That’s not good enough, Wright said. She wants more time for the community to have its say. Coun. John Streicker agreed, asking for a delay in approving the motion until the community could be consulted.
“If we pass this motion, some residents will believe that by passing this motion we are on an inevitable path. Let’s just put the pause button on and that way the public won’t feel like we’re predetermined about what’s going to happen,” Streicker said.
Coun. Dave Stockdale, on the other hand, worried about the message being sent by not approving Gladish’s motion.
“If you don’t proceed with this, it kind of gives the residents, not a false hope, but maybe a sense that we’re not going to do it, and that sends the wrong message as well,” he said.
Mayor Dan Curtis said he feels the current bylaw process needs to be followed, but he made a concession. He agreed to hold a special mayor’s meeting to allow the community to voice its concerns before the bylaw goes to first reading.
“If council wishes to postpone, amend or defeat these bylaws, they can after it’s been presented at first reading,” Curtis said.
“It’s important to keep the process moving. We’re just keeping it in the process. It’s not percolating. It’s not even warm. It’s just there,” he said.
The meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 20 at city hall.
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