City council has directed administration to prepare a capital budget submission to address the shortage of commercial and industrial land in the city.
Council passed the motion at its meeting Monday as councillors suggested there is an urgent need to get on with looking for solutions now.
A land study presented to council at its meeting last week indicated the city is currently short 37 hectares (91 acres) of industrial and commercial land. The city will need to make 87 hectares available to meet the anticipated demand by 2030, says the study.
The motion, put forward by Coun. Dan Boyd, directs administration to prepare a capital budget submission aimed at advancing commercial and industrial land development.
Council heard the business community is concerned – quite concerned.
Coun. Laura Cabott told her colleagues she spoke to one long-time business owner who described the situation as critical.
Rick Karp, a former president of the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce, submitted a letter to council for Monday’s meeting
describing the land shortage as crippling.
“Now is the time for the city to work at developing Industrial/Commercial land – to act!” Karp wrote.
“The future economic development and growth of our City is at stake. Our community needs you to step up and do something.”
Karp said he’s been looking for one acre of commercial/industrial land but hasn’t been able to find anything.
He said he knows Outside investors have been turned away from Whitehorse and have had to look at other municipalities because there’s no land here.
“We are not open for commercial/industrial expansion, and the interest is there locally and outside of Yukon,” says Karp’s
submission to council.
It is time, says the submission, for the city to engage with the Yukon government to solve the issue.
The land study must not be left to sit on the shelf, he insisted.
Every fall, city council and senior administration begin planning the capital budget for the next year.
Specific projects are identified with budget estimates attached.
Budget discussions involving council and senior staff are aimed at
Members of council have expressed concern about the shortage of commercial and industrial land. They’ve said the city can’t wait until the current review of the Official Community Plan is complete, which is expected some time next year.
Coun. Boyd told his colleagues the city needs to be aggressive in pursuing a solution to address the shortage.
It needs to identify areas where lots could be made available and begin the planning work, he said.
“We have to let our colleagues at the Yukon government know we are anxious to see what actions can be taken sooner rather than later,” he said.
Mayor Dan Curtis noted how the Kwanlin Dün First Nation is currently working to provide commercial and industrial lots on its
land in the Marwell area off Tlingit Street, which is currently under construction.
It was also noted there is a possibility of Sidhu Trucking bringing 13 commercial and light industrial lots to the market if its application to redesignate a 7.3-hectare section of the Tank Farm from future residential to commercial/industrial is approved.
The application has sparked a passionate debate. Council did pass second reading of the required bylaw at its meeting Monday (see story, p. 2). Third and final reading is scheduled for Nov. 9.
Coun. Samson Hartland said the city can’t wait for the development of the next commercial land subdivision.
“I think the city needs to take control of its own destiny and work the other levels of government in moving this along,” he said.
“People are expecting us as leaders to address that demand.”
Alan Lebedoff of ALX Exploration knows first-hand the shortage of commercial and industrial land.
From its roots in 2006 building drilling core boxes to supply the mineral exploration industry, the company has grown into a major
supplier for the mining industry as well, the company president told the Star Tuesday.
Lebedoff said the land study showing the shortage of land, and others who are raising the concern about the shortage, have hit the nail on the head.
“We have been looking for a larger piece of land now for a number of years and it really isn’t changing,” he said.
Lebedoff said his company has outgrown the five-acre lot it has in the Mount Sima industrial subdivision.
To keep up with its business development plan, ALX Exploration would need a property of 12 to 15 acres if the company wants to keep pace with the growth of the mining industry, he said.
Lebedoff said there’s been an extended period of no land availability.
And there have been no encouraging words coming out of city hall regarding what the long-term supply might be.
The situation, he said, has been kind of disheartening.
“We have been looking but there is nothing available,” Lebedoff said.
“And there is consensus that it’s not going to change anytime soon.”
The company president said ALX will always have its base of operations here, but it’s been looking for the last couple of years for
land outside the territory that could support the company’s desire to expand.
In his submission to council, Karp wrote that with no land available, the city doesn’t have the capacity to welcome and support investment in the commercial and industrial sectors.
“Our business community must be able to stay competitive, must be able to expand, and must be able to meet increasing demand and service opportunities,” he said.