Public land for private developers

Plans for a private trailer park on public property landed on the desks of city politicians Monday night.

Plans for a private trailer park on public property landed on the desks of city politicians Monday night.

The new 45-lot park being proposed by Whitehorse businessman Barry Bellchambers is slated for a strip of Crown land next to the Northlands trailer court, across from the Takhini Mobile Home Park.

Bellchambers approached municipal and territorial authorities in 2006 to apply for the land, and his plan has since been vetted by the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board.

Bellchambers received conditional approval contingent on city zoning approval, to buy the land from the Yukon government and his application is now before council.

The Yukon government’s raw land disposition method has no bidding process.

The process left councillors with some questions.

“I was curious, how did he applicant gain interest in the land?” asked councillor Jeanine Myhre.

Councillor Dave Stockdale was equally as curious.

“I thought that land that became available would be put on the open market,” said Stockdale.

“Does that circumvent a process to get around something?” he asked.

The answer is no, according to Yukon government authorities.

But, it gets a little complicated.

Development of government-owned land can occur in a few different ways.

There’s one process for large scale government development, and another for spot-land applications, a process by which individual developers can pick and buy government-owned land on their own, said Lyle Henderson, director of the Yukon government’s lands branch.

For government development, an agreement has been hammered out that states the rules the city and territory must follow, said Henderson.

The document speaks to the roles of the city, as the zoning authority, and the Yukon government, which is responsible for managing all Crown lands, in developing lots for Yukoners and sold using a lottery system.

“The purpose of the protocol agreement is to acknowledge the intent of the parties to work together in the provision of land development in the city of Whitehorse,” states the protocol.

“The protocol is intended by the parties to be a record of their respective expectations and is not intended to create or hinder any legally enforceable rights or obligations.”

The obligations vary depending on which government is in play.

It’s the municipal government’s responsibility to identify city land it wants to develop.

Whitehorse is responsible for all the planning, engineering, technical assessments, environmental assessments, and running all public consultations.

The city must also negotiate land-development agreements with the territorial government, as necessary, and it must come up with a public process for disposing of the land to the public, according to the agreed-upon rules.

In the same large-scale government-initiated developments, the Yukon is supposed to work with Whitehorse to identify developable land. It must also negotiate development agreements.

Also included in the development rules is a clause calling on the government to work with the city to “develop a process to sell raw land to developers, on a case-by-case basis, if both parties agree.”

The agreement also calls on the territory to consult with the city before making any decisions regarding the disposal of raw land within the city to anyone other than the city.

And, that’s how spot land applications are done, said Henderson.

If an individual developer, like Bellchambers, finds land they want, they approach the Yukon, which then consults the city to see if the developer’s plan falls within the Official Community Plan.

And there’s a separate agreement for that process, said Henderson.

“It speaks to city input on raw land sales (to individual developers),” he said.

The document, titled a Process Document for (the Yukon government) and (the city) for Review of Land Applications on Vacant Yukon Lands within City of Whitehorse Municipal Boundaries — was completed in May, almost a year to the day after the Land Development Protocol was drafted.

The process for city spot-land applications has three stages, according to the document.

In stage one, a developer applies for land. They bring it to the Yukon’s lands branch, and if it conforms to the lands act it’s sent to the city.

If it conforms, it moves forward.

If it does not, it’s kiboshed.

If it moves forward, the city checks to see if the development follows the Official Community Plan.

If so, the application moves back to the lands branch for stage two.

If not, it’s kiboshed.

In stage two, the lands branch ensures the application follows all applicable legislation, and performs a review, which involves the city’s development review committee. It may also need a Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board review.

After the reviews, the application returns to the city for zoning approval.

That’s where Bellchambers’ application is now.

If it passes stage two, the application advances to stage three. There, title is awarded to the person applying for land once all the terms and conditions are met.

The spot-land process does not involve a public tender, said Henderson.

But, with the May agreement in place, the city has avoided unpleasant situations that occurred in the past, said city manager Dennis Shewfelt.

Before the May agreement, individual developers could receive permission from the Yukon government to apply for an Official Community Plan amendment for lands that the plan did not consider developable, said Shewfelt.

In 2006, then-Whitehorse resident Daryl Novakowski received a letter of interest for land in a Porter Creek greenbelt and applied to the city to rezone a piece of environmentally protected land into residential.

The application, which was turned down, was made just months before the city held its first green space referendum.