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New bylaw has developer guessing

Whitehorse has hit the first snag in its new greenspace bylaw, which passed last week through a referendum.And it’s a biggie.

Whitehorse has hit the first snag in its new greenspace bylaw, which passed last week through a referendum.

And it’s a biggie.

It relates to Jeff Luehmann’s private Meadow Lakes Golf and Country Club development, which is snarled in a Official Community Plan amendment.

Luehmann wants to build 27 country residential lots, but he needs a zoning change on the property because it is currently zoned for a golf course.

He’s asked for the change, but it has only passed second reading in council.

So, will Luehmann have to draft a planning study and greenspace map, as required by the bylaw 2006-11, for his new development?

The city doesn’t know.

That’s because it hasn’t determined where in the rezoning process the new bylaw comes into play.

 “We have a bylaw with no procedures,” said city’s administrative services director Robert Fendrick this morning.

And, because Luehmann began his Official Community Plan amendment application before June 22nd, the date the referendum was passed, the city isn’t sure whether he’s in the clear or not.

“June 22nd is kind of the magic date; everything before that is going to be grandfathered, and anything subsequent to that’s going to fall into the new rules,” said Fendrick.

“We need to look at when this is going to be triggered. If (Luehmann) does get an OCP change, his next step is zoning, so we need to make a decision now, is this what triggers new residential development?”

Luehmann doesn’t want to go through the greenspace bylaw process.

“Obviously I feel that 2006-11 doesn’t apply to me — plain and simple, cut and dried,” he said Thursday.

He’s frustrated that the city does not even know how or when the new bylaw comes into play.

“I don’t even think they know; I don’t think anybody knows, and I certainly don’t know, so it’s frustrating, to say the least,” he said.

“I am halfway through a process. I’ve already got my YESSA study done and finalized and signed off by YTG — everything’s passed.

“I’m at second reading on a OCP amendment, and now they’re going to come to me and say, ‘Well geez, we’re really sorry that you’re going to have to do this other study, and it’s going to cost you anywhere from $5,000 to $60,000.

“You know, we need to know these things up front in a budget. I have an investor, man! He’s gonna be doing somersaults if we gotta do another study.”

Fendrick suggested the new greenspace bylaw will apply to Luehmann, as an OCP amendment process isn’t what is officially considered the development application.

But it’s still up in the air.

“We haven’t made a firm decision on that yet,” said Fendrick.

To complicate matters, Luehmann said he has a letter from the city that guarantees bylaw 2006-11 will not apply to his development.

“I have a letter form the city stating that, basically, I’m exempt from any of the referendum stuff that came about,” he said.

When Luehmann realized the referendum was going to happen, he made sure his application wouldn’t apply, he said.

“That’s when I really started pushing and saying ‘wait a minute, we’re not taking any chances here, we want assurances from you, that we won’t have to deal with this. And I got those assurances.”

The letter was dated in May, before bylaw 2006-11 was even a consideration, and that it was bylaw 2006-10 they were talking about, said Fendrick.

Bylaw 2006-10 was passed June 12th. It states the city must go to referendum before changing any area designated protected in its Official Community Plan.

Luehmann’s property doesn’t apply because it’s zoned outdoor recreation, said Fendrick.

Bylaw “2006-10 doesn’t apply, but 2006-11 is a whole different question,” said Fendrick.

“You’ve gotta look at the dates of the e-mail,” he said. “May doesn’t seem that long ago, but it was, in terms of this legislation — so we thought he was referring to 2006-10.”

In any case, there isn’t any greenspace problems with his development, said Luehmann.

“We’ve gone through two very public hearing processes and there was never any concerns raised by anybody over greenspace.

“To me it’s a non-issue. Even if there was a legal ground to stand on, and they were adamant I had to do it, we’ve already proven there aren’t any concerns.”

The planning department is currently working on how bylaw 2006-11 should be applied, said city manager Dennis Shewfelt.

“We have to be able to provide anyone who comes through the door consistent information, so whether it’s developer A, B or C, we have to determine whether that development will or will not trigger (the bylaw), and on what basis it will or will not trigger,” he said.

“We’ve got a little bit of time, but obviously we have to come up with those guidelines that fit into the actual law,” said Fendrick

He said he was not sure whether there are other subdivision applications currently underway that may be affected by the new bylaw.

“It’s never an easy question, trying to bring in new legislation, but we’re working on it.”

Meanwhile, the city will have to deal with Luehmann.

The developer is in negotiations with the city and has a meeting with city staff today.

 “It’s not like I want to go there and try and say, ‘OK let’s keep this hush hush, and you guys squeak it through.’ That’s not what’s going to happen.

“Either they’re going to force me to do it, or I’m going to convince them that I shouldn’t have to do it.

“In my view, we don’t have to deal with the greenspace referendum process.”