Truckers don’t make good neighbours

Dwayne Dillabaugh is tired of breathing noxious diesel on the grounds of his country home. Over the last two years, the 72-year-old Yukoner has watched as his next-door neighbour has expanded his transport trucking company.

Dwayne Dillabaugh is tired of breathing noxious diesel on the grounds of his country home.

Over the last two years, the 72-year-old Yukoner has watched as his next-door neighbour has expanded his transport trucking company.

People like Dillabaugh and his neighbours don’t expect to see trucking companies crop up next door when they live in areas zoned rural residential.

But that’s what has happened. Look over Dillabaugh’s fence and you’ll see his neighbour’s sparsely treed lot crammed with transport trucks and metal shipping containers.

Every day, at least two or three trucks trundle along the driveway. And when the trucks are running, diesel fumes seep into nearby homes, said Dillabaugh.

And the rumble of idling trucks will sometimes go on for 10 hours straight in the deep of winter.

“It’s a pain in the butt,” he said.

Dillabaugh bought his property northwest of Whitehorse 40 years ago. At the time it was surrounded by dense trees and bush. “This was once a beautiful lot,” said Dillabaugh, looking around his property.

When his neighbour moved in three years ago, he was planning to build a stable on the property, said Dillabaugh.

“There were one or two horses for about a year,” he said. “Then the horses disappeared and so did the trees.”

Dillabaugh’s neighbour cleared a large portion of his 1.2-hectare lot to make room for transport trucks. First, there was only one truck. Then the operation started to get bigger, said Dillabaugh.

Neighbour Howard Bjork and the owners, parents Lloyd and Leah Bjork, never applied to the territorial government to zone the area for industrial use.

The property didn’t even have a commercial zoning licence.

Had the Bjorks applied to rezone the area, they would have had to consult with neighbours in the surrounding area, said Energy Mines and Resources spokesperson Ron Billingham.

And that never happened, said Dillabaugh.

As the operation continued to grow, Dillabaugh and his neighbours became increasingly concerned.

“When the trucks pull out (onto the Alaska Highway), it can be really dangerous because the driver can’t see anyone from the opposite direction,” said Dillabaugh.

“If a car were speeding down the highway, someone could die.”

One of Dillabaugh’s neighbours says she never walks along the highway with her grandchildren anymore because she’s worried they may get hit.

“It’s so unbelievably dangerous,” said the woman who asked not to be named.

She wrote a letter to the government asking for something to be done.

“Zip has been done,” she said.

She’s not the only neighbour to complain to the government.

Dillabaugh and another couple who live nearby both contacted the territory looking for the issue to be resolved.

“In October, I contacted the government and they said they were going to look into it,” said Dillabaugh.

“Chris Belanger (with Community Services) said it was a flagrant abuse of country-residential zoning. It seemed enough for him to go and do his homework on it.”

But nothing has happened since then.

“The branch is aware of the issue and has received a couple complaints,” said Billingham, explaining the government has been working on the issue.

“The first part of the process is letter writing (to the landowner).”

In the meantime, Dillabaugh sees things getting worse, not better.

“Yesterday, (the neighbour) erected two sets of four sea containers stacked on top of each other with a canopy in between,” he said.

The problem should have been sorted out long ago, said Dillabaugh’s neighbour.

“You shouldn’t have to bang your head against the wall and make phone calls all the time and go in for meetings, especially when there’s a law here, it’s country-residential,” she said.

She’s concerned the government is stalling on the issue because they’ve had a contract with the Bjorks for several years to truck in liquor from Skagway, she said. Last year, Lynden Transport, a Canadian company the Bjorks are affiliated with, received a $4.6-million shipping contract with the Yukon government.

“There’s a conflict of interest here.”

If the government doesn’t move forward on the issue, she and her neighbours will hire a lawyer and fight it in court, she said.

Dillabaugh is hoping it won’t have to get to that point.

But he’s opted to sell off his property anyway, partly because of his age, but also because of the trucking company next door, he said.

“(The Bjorks) are good people who like to work, but what they’ve done here is wrong,” said Dillabaugh.

Lloyd Bjork did not return a call from the News.

Contact Vivian Belik at

vivianb@yukon-news.com

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