Old laws stall new development at hot springs

A land survey from 1949 is stalling development at the Takhini Hot Springs. "It's an absurd situation," said Garry Umbrich, president of Takhini Hot Springs Ltd. Umbrich has spent the last three years trying to get the land rezoned so he can further develop the property.

A land survey from 1949 is stalling development at the Takhini Hot Springs.

“It’s an absurd situation,” said Garry Umbrich, president of Takhini Hot Springs Ltd.

Umbrich has spent the last three years trying to get the land rezoned so he can further develop the property. The company plans to build more natural-looking pools at the site and work on the campground. This work may attract future development at the site.

But a dried-up “phantom” stream and old legislation are preventing the plans from moving forward.

The survey says that all water under the land belongs to the federal government. A 1947 report identifies the water as a hot spring diverted by a pipe into a swimming pool, and a “trickle” of water that flowed from the hot spring.

This situation reflects the uncertainty of owning land in the territory, Umbrich said.

In the provinces, only the most recent land survey is looked at when purchasing land, he said. But here, any historical surveys are referenced when purchases are made.

When the company first bought the land, its lawyers looked into it and said everything was fine, said Umbrich. He only learned about this survey in January.

Because it is not clear what the survey means, development has been stalled.

But the “trickle” has dried up, possibly in the 1990s.

No one knows exactly where this trickle of water was on the property. The original survey does not provide an accurate picture of its location. It was simply drawn on, said Colin McDowell, Yukon’s director of land management.

The company has put in a petition asking the Yukon Supreme Court to say the federal exemption on the land is no longer valid.

The federal government has asked the territorial government for its advice. Natural Resources Canada was not able to respond to questions before deadline. The Yukon government supports the petition, said McDowell.

The original concern of the survey was that the water on Crown land be managed properly. The Yukon Waters Act addresses these concerns, said McDowell.

The petition should appear before the court this month or next, said Umbrich. The court can decide if they will accept the petition or survey out the plot of land with the stream. This would mean the government still owns that portion of the land.

Umbrich hopes to have the new pools finished by May 2016.

Contact Meagan Gillmore at

mgillmore@yukon-news.com

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