Takhini Hot Springs residents sue government over development plan

A dozen Takhini Hotsprings Road residents are suing the Yukon government over a residential development plan they say was approved without consultation.

UPDATED

A dozen Takhini Hotsprings Road residents are suing the Yukon government over a residential development plan that will see nine homes built on one neighbouring lot.

In a statement of claim filed on June 16 in Yukon Supreme Court, the Hotsprings Road Development Area Residents Association wants the court to cancel a development plan approved by the Yukon government’s lands branch.

The association says the plan was approved without consultation.

The argument started when Garry Umbrich, president of Takhini Hot Springs Ltd., applied to have more than two residences built on a lot.

Normally each lot in that area can have a maximum of two residences.

But a special provision in the local area plan allows owners with adjacent lots on the property to transfer some of the residence allowance to other lots.

An owner with four lots, for example, could apply to have up to eight of the residences built on one lot.

Umbrich was successfully granted his application last February to have nine homes built on one lot owned by Takhini Hot Springs Ltd.

Umbrich owns a majority of shares in the company that owns four lots.

Residence allowances were transferred to one of the four lots and from a fifth lot the company sold.

The plan is to let Evergreen Homes build a cluster of nine homes on the lot and sell them.

But the local area plan calls for community consultation before the exception is granted, the statement of claim indicates.

That never happened, Brian Farrell, president of the residents association, told the News on Monday.

Two meetings over the issue, one in November last year and one last March, quickly descended into shouting matches, the News reported at the time.

Residents accused Umbrich of not consulting them about the development.

Umbrich at the time accused them of holding secret meetings and interfering with his business.

“It should not be up to area residents to decide where we build our homes, that is the prerogative of the property owner,” he said in a past e-mail.

Farrell said that residents only recently learned of a 2012 development plan that allowed Umbrich to subdivide his lots.

That also required consultation, he claims.

On Tuesday Umbrich told the News that consultation was up to the government, not to him.

He said he is open to talking with his neighbours about his plans.

“We’ll talk to our neighbours and see if we can come up to a way that works for all of us in terms of where we put the homes in that 10 hectare (lot),” he said.

“We want to cluster them together and put them towards the middle so it’s further away from them.”

The lot slated for the nine residences is about nine city blocks, Umbrich said.

Three petitions were submitted to the legislative assembly, but Energy, Mines and Resources Minister Scott Kent didn’t address the issues raised, the lawsuit reads.

The residential development plan is separate from the Takhini Hot Pools’ plan to expand with smaller, more natural-looking pools, Farrell said.

Residents say they are not opposed to Umbrich developing his business.

“It has been alleged by Mr. Umbrich … that we are against all development,” said Farrell.

“We are concerned about the development issue around housing and how this has not been consulted with us.”

The residents association was created about two months ago for the purpose of starting the legal action, Farrell said.

About a dozen residents are part of it, with more signalling their intention to join.

Umbrich’s application also violates the spirit of the consolidation provision, Farrell said.

That provision was put in place in 1999 when Umbrich and other residents planned to have a co-housing arrangement.

Under a co-housing arrangement, several people share spaces such as a community garden or kitchen on top of having their own home.

When Umbrich bought the other investors’ lots, the idea was dropped, according to the statement of claim.

Umbrich confirmed that an unrelated disagreement ended the co-housing plan.

But according to him, his plan is similar to the one from 1999: it’s for residential homes.

“What’s the impact on (the neighbours)?” he asked.

Kent is named a defendant in the lawsuit, as a representative of the Yukon government.

Spokespeople for both the Justice Department and cabinet told the News they wouldn’t be commenting, citing the case being in front of the court.

Contact Pierre Chauvin at

pierre.chauvin@yukon-news.com

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