Territory bolsters Kwanlin Dun’s leasing scheme

Last month, the Kwanlin Dun First Nation announced it would lease settlement land to people wanting to build houses.

Last month, the Kwanlin Dun First Nation announced it would lease settlement land to people wanting to build houses.

Those five or more infill lots expanded to 1,000-person subdivisions on Friday when Chief Rick O’Brien signed an agreement with Premier Darrell Pasloski.

And while the single-page agreement lacks much detail, it appears the Yukon’s being altruistic. It isn’t getting much from the deal beyond housing lots.

“We’re doing two things,” said Pasloski on Friday. “We’re addressing a need in Whitehorse. And what we’re also doing is recognizing that First Nations need to be equal partners in our economy. So assisting them, to get them into position to be able to implement this, is what we’re doing. Do we have to do anything from a legislative perspective? No. This is an agreement to co-operate and to help facilitate the opportunity for development probably in a more expeditious timeline.”

In terms of what the territory’s contributions will actually look like, the word “infrastructure” was used a lot – legislative infrastructure, like the land registry, and physical infrastructure, like water and energy grid hook-ups.

The partnership will resemble what the territory has with municipal governments, said O’Brien.

In those cases, the territory shoulders the major costs, like hooking up the water and energy, and then recoups the money when the lots are sold.

But in this case, the lots won’t be sold. They will be leased.

Kwanlin Dun benefits because it would no longer have to pay property taxes on raw lands; it would collect the annual lease payments, and would receive a major portion of the residents’ income tax from Revenue Canada, as stipulated in its final agreement. The Yukon would not share any of that tax revenue.

“This is an economic opportunity for Kwanlin Dun,” said Pasloski. “Yukon is not looking to share the revenue on the tax side of this initiative.”

“Nothing we’re doing here is outside the box,” said O’Brien. “Nothing we’re doing here is contained outside the box of our agreement.

“Our lands were not selected to be green space. We selected our lands for economic opportunities.

“We want to maximize our benefits in the agreement; we want to cut the umbilical cord at some point in time down the road so we’re not reliant on government. We want to be fully sustainable, and that’s the whole idea of having self-government agreements.”

The pockets of Kwanlin Dun settlement land within Whitehorse range from single-house lots squished within existing subdivisions, like Porter Creek, to huge swaths of land that could hold major subdivision developments, like the land adjacent to McIntyre village or across the street from the Kopper King.

The goal is to have at least one major subdivision on the books and started within a year, said O’Brien.

However, the First Nation is still deciding what land it wants to preserve for its citizens to develop, said O’Brien.

But aside from zoning whether it’s residential or commercial, the First Nation will not dictate what gets built.

It will be up to the person, or organization that holds the lease, said O’Brien.

That could be anyone.

In fact, Pasloski confirmed the territory could lease and develop large parcels itself.

Pretty much anything is still on the table, said Pasloski.

Contact Roxanne Stasyszyn at roxannes@yukon-news.com