A pair of spot land applications near Mount Lorne have raised the ire of the hamlet’s chief municipal politician.
Mark Stephens, chair of the Mount Lorne advisery council, is concerned that two six-hectare parcels applications for rural residential land near the South Klondike Highway threaten caribou habitat, and are not wanted by current residents.
“There hasn’t been enough science done to distinguish what caribou habitat is,” Stephens said Thursday.
“But if you start developing in those areas, it’s no longer caribou habitat. You make a huge footprint.”
Both applications were filed before November 2005, and so fell under the purview of the Land Application Review Committee, before the Yukon Environmental and Socioeconomic Assessment Act took full effect.
“These were denied by LARC,” said Stephens.
“They were appealed. Because there’s no LARC process, (the lands branch) is basically unilaterally deciding that they can be developed.”
The review committee denied only one of the applications, — located at kilometre 7.5 on the South Klondike Highway — said Lyle Henderson, manager of the lands branch of the Energy, Mines and Resources department.
“It was denied by LARC based on caribou habitat information and other comments that were received,” said Henderson.
The applicant appealed, and in January 2006 the lands branch overturned the LARC decision.
“The information that initially resulted in denial of the application was disproven,” said Henderson.
“There is no valid data supporting caribou at that location.”
The application is in close proximity to existing properties and an existing gravel pit adjacent to the highway.
An agreement for sale has not yet been drafted.
The other controversial application targets land near kilometre 23 of the Annie Lake Road.
The review committee approved it and the government entered into an agreement for sale with the applicant.
“There is no appeal process on that application,” said Henderson.
“There is an agreement for sale, which is a contractually binding land sale.”
The legal survey of the parcel had to be re-jigged because one of the boundaries crossed an existing neighbourhood trail.
But the applicant now owns the land, said Henderson.
The lands branch consulted with the Environment department about the impact the two applications would have on caribou habitat, he said.
“We always do that. That is a routine matter of practice.”
Both spot land applications comply with Mount Lorne’s community plan for rural residential development, added Henderson.
And they also comply with the rural residential designations of proposed changes to the Mount Lorne zoning regulations, he said.
There are no other active spot land applications targeting the Mount Lorne area.
Mount Lorne residents have been waiting 10 years for the government to implement the new regulations, said Stephens.
The lands branch is putting increasing pressure on Mount Lorne to make rural residential land available, he said.
“We’re saying, ‘fill your boots,’ but we want to do it planned, responsibly, and with these spot land applications we’ve lost total trust in the way (the lands branch) disposes of the land.”
But once areas are opened, development expands. The environmental footprint swells well beyond the six-hectare boundaries of Mount Lorne lots.
“The hamlet has been talking about this for years,” said Stephens.
“LARC and YESAA aside, there needs to be new policies and regulations with respect to disposition of land in the Whitehorse periphery area.
“There haven’t been any policy changes in terms of land disposition in the last 30 years, and post-devolution and post land claims, it is ludicrous.”