The Adult Resource Centre entrance off of the Alaska Highway near the Erik Nielson airport in Whitehorse on Feb. 4. According to information gained though an access-to-information request, the Yukon government approached the Salvation Army about selling the land the Yukon Adult Resource Centre sat on as early as November 2019. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)

Yukon government approached Salvation Army about ARC land sale, records show

“YG approached SA first and they have been receptive throughout”

The Yukon government approached the Salvation Army about selling the land the Yukon Adult Resource Centre (ARC) sat on, with the organization eager to start the process in early November 2019.

The News, through an access-to-information request, obtained emails between staff from both the Departments of Justice and Highways and Public Works (HPW) as well as the Salvation Army from late 2019 into early 2020.

The emails show that officials knew about the certainty of the land sale, and the associated closure of the ARC — the territory’s only halfway house — well before the news was made public.

They also contradict statements made by a minister in the legislative assembly regarding who the government was in discussions with in regards to property acquisitions to make room for the the Alaska Highway expansion in Whitehorse’s Hillcrest neighbourhood.

Inklings of the Yukon government buying the ARC property were apparent since at least Sept. 6, 2019, when HPW regional program manager Sandra MacDougall forwarded a land appraisal to someone at the Salvation Army (the person’s name is redacted).

“I’ve reviewed but not in detail,” MacDougall wrote. “When you’re ready, let’s talk next steps.”

Someone from the Salvation Army responded on Nov. 5, 2019, writing that the board at the divisional office in Edmonton “has approved the go-ahead on selling the ARC property to YG.”

“In our meeting, it was mentioned that YG might be open to the idea of a ‘land swap,’” the person wrote. “We’re not interested in looking at other property, at this time, so are looking to sell.

“In addition to the certified appraisal completed, our internal process also looks for a real estate evaluation. We will get that done in the next few days, and then take the next steps we require.”

However, when Yukon Party MLA Geraldine Van Bibber asked about plans to purchase the property in the legislative assembly on Nov. 27, 2019, HPW minister Richard Mostyn said his department was “currently speaking with the owners of the Airport Chalet, but that’s the only site that, I’ve been told, we are actually working on to obtain to make the highway right-of-way wider.”

The ARC property is technically not in the right-of-way, but is immediately adjacent to it. A Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board proposal from January stated that the widening of the highway would “result in cut-slopes that will undermine the stability of the current slope upon which the ARC is situated.”

HPW staff, at one point, discussed the possibility of building a retaining wall to reinforce the slope, should the Salvation Army chose not to sell the property nor relocate the ARC.

Building that wall, though, would be “expensive,” HPW assistant deputy minister Paul Murchison wrote in a Jan. 10 email.

“Acquiring the Salvation Army property may be less expensive than constructing a retaining wall,” Murchison said. He also noted two other benefits to buying the property — the “potential for long term future development of services roads and intersections” in the area and the elimination of a steep grade that “is not a desirable access point on the highway.”

The estimated cost of the wall is redacted from the documents, as is the potential cost of buying the property.

Mostyn, again responding to a question from the Yukon Party, also said in the legislative assembly on March 5 that the “the Salvation Army came and said that they would like to talk to us about acquiring the property there.”

This contradicts a Jan. 9 email from HPW’s manager of highway and airport design and construction, Brian Crist.

“Essentially if we do not acquire our construction costs will rise,” Crist wrote in response to an email chain about how to respond to “concerns raised by the opposition” about the “expropriation” of the land.

“YG approached SA first and they have been receptive throughout. Emphasize this is land acquisition discussion only, not expropriation.”

The ARC closed on April 30. It’s since been replaced with a facility located in what was formerly Unit E of the Whitehorse Correctional Centre, with programming run by the justice-focused NGO the John Howard Society.

Contact Jackie Hong at jackie.hong@yukon-news.com

Salvation ArmyYukon Department of Highways and Public WorksYukon justice department

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

$500,000 deficit projected for Whitehorse

COVID-19 impacts cost the city $1.8 million

WYATT’S WORLD

Wyatt’s World for Sept. 23, 2020

From Whitehorse to the Whitecaps

Joe Hanson is starting his second season with the Vancouver Whitecaps academy

Mount Lorne Mis-Adventure Trail Race doesn’t miss a step

Blue skies and sunshine for a chilly fall race

Canada Summer Games postponed

Yukon Canada Summer Games athletes will now work on mastering skills in preperation for 2022

Yukon government releases new guidelines for COVID-19 symptoms and sending children to school

The advice sorts symptoms into three categories: red, yellow and green

Nominations closed in Watson Lake byelection

Four candidates are running for mayor

Baggage screening changes begin

Passengers are asked to arrive earlier than normal in order to accommodate the new temporary system

Yukon Government extends education review

The final report is scheduled for release in March 2021

City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

Lawsuit against Freedom Trails settled

The suit was dismissed with consent of all parties

Tank farm takes another step towards development

OCP designation passes second reading

Climate change strategy targets 30 per cent reduction in territory greenhouse gases by 2030

The strategy includes rebates for electric vehicles but puts off mining targets for two years

Most Read