The Yukon government failed to consult residents on a residential development plan on the Takhini Hot Springs road, a Yukon Supreme Court judge ruled, putting the project on hold.
In a decision released March 14, Justice Miriam Maisonville found the Yukon government didn’t consult residents on the Takhini Hot Springs Ltd. plan to build nine homes on a single lot.
Normally each lot can only have two homes on it, according to the local area plan. But a special provision in the plan allows owners with adjacent lots to transfer some of the residence allowances to other lots.
But such an exception must follow a special process: community consultation, rezoning and site plan approval.
Takhini Hot Springs and the government entered into an agreement in 2012 that allowed the company to apply to transfer some of the residential development potential between lots.
In February 2015, the government and Takhini Hot Springs amended the agreement to list three lots that could have more than the two residential homes limit, without any consultation.
The Hot Springs Road Development and Residents Association petitioned the government in June 2016, demanding the development plan be cancelled.
But Justice Maisonville stopped short of that.
“I find that it would not be appropriate to declare the Amended Development Agreement void,” she wrote. “Until there has been compliance with the requirements of consultation and rezoning … development is prohibited.”
Maisonville rejected the government’s argument that discrepancies between the French and the English versions of the Hot Springs Road Area Development Regulations allowed them to bypass the consultation.
For Brian Farrell, president of the residents association, the ball is in the government’s court to decide whether they’ll appeal the decision or whether they’ll hold consultations.
Farrell made it clear the residents weren’t against Takhini Hot Pools’ plan to develop smaller, more natural-looking pools, but were opposed to the residential development next to it.
“The mixed commercial tourism designation, that’s the only designation in the Yukon which applies to the Hot Springs,” he said. “It’s a unique situation and it’s going to create unique challenges.”
For Garry Umbrich, president of Takhini Hot Springs, it’s a victory.
While the court’s decision will slow down the process by requiring consultation, it also provided clarity to the process.
“We’re quite happy with the outcome of the court case,” Umbrich told the News. “The court case makes it clear we can transfer our residential capacity to other lots.”
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 was to build a cluster of nine homes on the lot and sell them.
When Umbrich first announced his plans for the residential development, two meetings were held, one in November 2015 and one in March 2016, both of which descended into shouting matches.
At the time some residents accused Umbrich of not consulting them about the development. Umbrich in turn accused them of holding secret meetings and interfering with his business.
Umbrich explained he wanted to develop on flat land he had in order to keep the forest intact.
“It’s our most expensive land, we need to develop it,” he said.
Despite past tensions with some residents, Umbrich said he is open to talk with them.
He talked to some residents last spring when he was working on creating a green trail to create a buffer zone between the future homes and his neighbour’s properties.
“They seemed to like that idea,” he said, despite their opposition to the development.
“We’re always happy to have a dialogue. We’re not very happy when people yell at us.”
Contact Pierre Chauvin at email@example.com