If the cleanup of the old White Pass tank farm is delayed it could kill the entire project, warns Pramjit Sidhu, who owns the property.
“If this doesn’t go, this place is going to sit there for a 100 years,” he told city council Monday night.
In a 4-3 vote last week, city council decided to wait for an environmental assessment before it votes on an amendment to the Official Community Plan that is needed before the cleanup can begin.
The city was looking to pass the amendment while the environmental assessment was underway in an effort to speed things up.
The OCP amendment is simply a policy change, said Mike Gau, manager of planning and development services.
Before anything could start, the project would still have to go through the Yukon Socio-economic Environmental Assessment Board. It would also require a decision document from the Yukon government as well as a development permit and zoning change from the city.
Putting off the vote on the OCP means the cleanup could be delayed for an extra two months. With the short construction season, that could mean the project would have to be put off for an entire year, said Sidhu.
“It’s only a 90-day season here,” he said. “We’re not living in the middle of Vancouver with a 12-month-a-year season.
“Come on, guys, wake up.”
In an effort to move things along, Mayor Bev Buckway will be tabling a motion next week to repeal council’s decision and call a new vote on the OCP amendment.
And that’s raised the ire of the Hillcrest Community Association.
“We have serious concerns that this proposed course of action may not be authorized by the Municipal Act,” said Jean-Paul Molgat, president of the Hillcrest Community
However, under the terms of the Municipal Act, and the city’s procedures bylaw, council has up to a year to reconsider any decision it makes, said Robert Fendrick, the city’s manager of administrative services.
In the last few weeks, the tank farm cleanup project has become a source of controversy for the adjacent Hillcrest neighbourhood.
The ruckus surprised Sidhu, who has been a resident of the neighbourhood for the last 38 years.
“I landed in Hillcrest straight from India,” said Sidhu in an interview the day after the council meeting. “
While he can understand his neighbours’ concern about the project, he can’t understand their suspicion.
“I’m a resident of Hillcrest,” he said. “I’m not living in Calgary.
“If there’s dust, I’m going to be breathing it. You think I want to get cancer?”
But the Hillcrest Community Association insists it isn’t against the cleanup. It simply wants to ensure that it’s done properly, with all the relevant information, said Molgat.
“I don’t see any advantage to the citizens of Whitehorse to play our card on amending the OCP before we know what’s on the table and what kind of decision document is coming from the Yukon government,” he said. “If you amend your bylaws now you may be forcing yourselves to implement a decision from the Yukon government that you don’t like.”
But that’s not the case, said Coun. Ranj Pillai, who was one of three councillors to oppose the deferral last week.
“I don’t see one card, I see a hand,” he said. ” I see one at third reading, I see one in the development agreements, the zoning amendments.
“There’s many stop gaps.”
The city is obliged to uphold the requirements laid out in the Yukon government’s final decision document. But it could always add more rules of its own.
The issue will be back before city council next week.
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