Rezoning request opens old controversy

A rezoning application has opened 40-year-old wounds within Whitehorse. Up until the early '70s, Clare Stark had a great view from her house perched on the clay cliff escarpment overlooking the Yukon River.

A rezoning application has opened 40-year-old wounds within Whitehorse.

Up until the early ‘70s, Clare Stark had a great view from her house perched on the clay cliff escarpment overlooking the Yukon River.

And at a time when grass was scarce in town, her lawn was a beautiful green.

One morning, as she was running out the door to work, Stark learned, from a radio report that her home would be expropriated. “There was no choice,” she says. “We were told we had three years to get out.”

At that time, housing was harder to come by than it is now.

Her rock-and-log house, with its great lawn, was bulldozed along with many of her neighbours’ homes.

Stark had to move into an apartment.

“We all sort of left around the same time,” she says. “Except the ones that never moved.”

The Wienecke’s were among those few.

They refused to relocate and now they are demanding city council rezone their property.

The initial expropriation was done because the city deemed the escarpment unsafe.

“In the spring time, when it was melting, you could hear the mud slide down,” says Ruth Whitney, another former resident of the little, cliff-top neighbourhood. “And you could go back there and see where the mud had come down.”

One hundred and thirty properties were supposed to be expropriated and the federal, territorial and municipal governments gathered a $2-million fund to do it, says Robert Fendrick, the city’s director of administrative services.

Some residents were bought out at high market value and given relocation money.

Others lived out their life-estate leases. And still others waited until after the $2 million had run out and were paid from the landbank reserve, says Fendrick.

Once the city took back the land, the houses were bulldozed to the ground to stave off any future development, Fendrick says.

But the Wienecke’s stayed put.

At that time, their lot was outside the immediate danger zone, says Fendrick.

In 2002, the city had a geohazard risk study done of the escarpment and it mapped out high, medium and low hazard zones. Any activity within them is supposed to be restricted to recreation and trails. The study prohibits any building in the high-hazard zone and says anything in the medium-hazard zone must undergo arduous studies and mitigation techniques. The city’s newest Official Community Plan recommends nothing be built within 60 metres of the escarpment.

The area was rezoned “PE” for environmental protection.

The Wienecke residence is only 20 metres back and straddles the high and medium hazard zones.

Now, led by daughter Tamara Goeppel, the family is demanding their property be rezoned as “RD1,” residential downtown.

Under the “PE” zoning, the property has literally no market value.

Goeppel paid for her own slope-stability assessment, specifically for her parents’ lot.

Because no further development has happened on top of the escarpment and because the house has already been there for 50 years, Goeppel’s study suggests that with a few mitigation techniques the residence is safe, Fendrick says.

“If somebody asked me which would be the most unsafe, it would have been his,” says Stark about the Wienecke’s house. “His fence is hanging in mid-air. How can you say that’s stable?”

Stark describes how the Wienecke’s house is up farther, above the residences that were bulldozed, and that sloughing has already left parts of the Wienecke’s front fence dangling.

“There should have been no excuses, no exceptions,” she says. “We followed the law and had to move out.”

Today, not only have the Wienecke’s had the pleasure of staying in their home for the past 30 years, but the market provides a whole new ball game to play in, with much bigger numbers, she adds.

With that said, Stark isn’t looking for money.

Even if she were, she wouldn’t get it, says Fendrick.

“Although, we are looking back at the title and how things were transacted in the past,” he says. “We’re not really looking at redressing any 30-year-old agreements that have been made. As far as we’re concerned, those are completely done and legal.”

But Stark stresses that those who did move 30 years ago were not treated fairly.

“I can acknowledge that some people don’t think it’s fair, but it’s a simple rezoning application before us now,” says Fendrick.

Stark remembers the numerous bedrooms in her old home and her vegetable gardens outside.

“It was a nice place. I’d move back into it tomorrow,” she says. “It’s just opening up a whole bunch of wounds again. It comes up every once in a while, especially when you drive by there and you think, ‘Well, my yard is still there with all the vegetation. The house is gone. And Wienecke’s still up above there.’ Why did we follow the rules and some people were exempt from them? That’s the part I don’t get.”

Stark’s home was number 605 Drury Street. The Wienecke’s are at number 609.

City council has deferred second and third reading of Goeppel’s application for rezoning until February 14.

Contact Roxanne Stasyszyn at

roxannes@yukon-news.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Maria Metzen off the start line of the Yukon Dog Mushers Association’s sled dog race on Jan. 9. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
Mushers race in preparation for FirstMate Babe Southwick

The annual race is set for Feb. 12 and 13.

The Yukon government is making changes to the medical travel system, including doubling the per diem and making destinations for medical services more flexible. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Subsidy for medical travel doubled with more supports coming

The change was recommended in the Putting People First report endorsed by the government

Chloe Sergerie, who was fined $500 under the <em>Civil Emergency Measures Act</em> on Jan. 12, says she made the safest choice available to her when she entered the territory. (Mike Thomas/Yukon News file)
Woman fined $500 under CEMA says she made ‘safest decision’ available

Filling out a declaration at the airport was contrary to self-isolation, says accused

The Yukon Department of Education building in Whitehorse on Dec. 22, 2020. Advocates are calling on the Department of Education to reverse their redefinition of Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) that led to 138 students losing the program this year. (John Hopkins-Hill/Yukon News file)
Advocates call redefinition of IEPs “hugely concerning,” call for reversal

At least 138 students were moved off the learning plans this year

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: Your Northern regulatory adventure awaits!

“Your Northern adventure awaits!” blared the headline on a recent YESAB assessment… Continue reading

Yukoner Shirley Chua-Tan is taking on the role of vice-chair of the social inclusion working group with the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences’ oversight panel and working groups for the autism assessment. (Submitted)
Canadian Academy of Health Sciences names Yukoner to panel

Shirley Chua-Tan is well-known for a number of roles she plays in… Continue reading

The Fish Lake area viewed from the top of Haeckel Hill on Sept. 11, 2018. The Yukon government and Kwanlin Dün First Nation (KDFN) announced they are in the beginning stages of a local area planning process for the area. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Local area planning for Fish Lake announced

The Government of Yukon and Kwanlin Dün First Nation (KDFN) announced in… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

Fire damage, photographed on Jan. 11, to a downtown apartment building which occurred late in the evening on Jan. 8. Zander Firth, 20, from Inuvik, was charged with the arson and is facing several other charges following his Jan. 12 court appearance. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
More charges for arson suspect

The Inuvik man charged in relation to the fire at Ryder Apartments… Continue reading

The grace period for the new Yukon lobbyist registry has come to an end and those who seek to influence politicians will now need to report their efforts to a public database. (Mike Thomas/Yukon News file)
Grace period for new lobbyist registry ends

So far nine lobbyists have registered their activities with politicians in the territory

The Government of Yukon Main Administration Building in Whitehorse on Aug. 21, 2020. Some Yukon tourism and culture non-profit organizations may be eligible to receive up to $20,000 to help recover from losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Details released on relief funding for tourism and culture non-profits

Some Yukon tourism and culture non-profit organizations may be eligible to receive… Continue reading

Most Read