One of the last remaining downtown escarpment area houses will be in the hands of the City of Whitehorse.
Whitehorse city council voted 3-2 in favour of third reading on a bylaw to purchase 7220 Seventh Ave. downtown for $250,000.
Councillors Dan Boyd and Samson Hartland voted against the bylaw, both arguing – as they have in the past – that the price should have been lower.
“I feel we’re paying too much, considering the clean up costs,” Boyd said.
Boyd stressed that while he generally supports the city acquiring sites along the clay cliffs where there are concerns around buildings being too close to the escarpment, in this case the cost is just too high.
Hartland had previously also argued the cleanup cost should have been factored into the equation to bring down the purchase price. Ahead of the July 26 vote, he stated his position on it had not changed.
While the city will spend $250,000 to buy the property, it’s budgeted a total of $380,000 for both the purchase and cleanup.
As Pat Ross, the city’s manager of land and building services, told council previously: “Structures remaining on the property after the city acquires ownership will be removed, but they contain hazardous materials that will require special handling and disposal. Backfilling and revegetation will also be required.”
The property is one of the last remaining sites identified under the 1970s-era Escarpment Land Acquisition Program, which saw the city work toward purchasing properties near the downtown escarpment.
The program was aimed at moving residents from the area due to concerns over drainage, erosion and potential mudslides of the clay cliffs. A total of 80 properties — including 7220 Seventh Avenue — were identified for the program with the purchase price based on fair market value. Some owners held out and remained on their properties, opting not to be part of the program.
The impacted area is now zoned as environmental protection with no housing permitted.
In the case of 7220 Seventh Avenue, the owner passed away in 2019 with city administration negotiating the purchase with the executor of the estate. While an acquisition bylaw for the city to buy it for $333,000 had come forward to council in March, council members voted to refer it back to administration for further review and negotiation.
The $250,000 price tag was then negotiated and brought forward to council with the first two readings of the bylaw passing July 12.
Before voting in favour of third reading of the bylaw, Coun. Laura Cabott said that while there is no question the city is paying more now for the property than it would have in the 1970s, 80s or 90s, those negotiating the deal worked to come to a fair price on the property, which the owner had paid taxes on for all those decades.
Administration has done what it can to reach a fair price, Cabott said, noting her desire to proceed with the purchase and repurpose the land.
Mayor Dan Curtis and Coun. Jan Stick joined Cabott in voting in favour of third reading. Councillors Steve Roddick and Jocelyn Curteanu were absent from the meeting.
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