Whitehorse Daily Star

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FORCED TO LOOK OUTSIDE – Alan Lebedoff of ALX Exploration is seen here Tuesday. With no suitable industrial lots in Whitehorse, he has told the Star, the company’s been looking for land outside the territory to support its plan to expand.

Outside investors have been turned away, city told

City council has directed administration to prepare a capital budget submission to address the shortage of commercial and industrial land in the city.

By Chuck Tobin on September 16, 2020

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 setting priorities.

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.

Comments (14)

Up 6 Down 1

Juniper Jackson on Sep 22, 2020 at 4:59 am

Businesses are shutting down left and right all over Canada. 60% of the business that closed "temporarily" 2 weeks turned into month. Huge CERB payments discouraged anyone from going back to work.. 60% of businesses are now closed permanently. With the high taxes, red tape, lack of staff.. who would want to start a business in Canada right now? Let alone Whitehorse? At this moment we do not have competent government. We have Silver and Hanley towing the crazy party line..we have Donny (Curtis) and just a bad council. We have 1 Premier, Ford.. in Ottawa, who is constantly talking about bringing business to Ontario, and constantly pushing the businesses they have. No other provinces and certainly not the Yukon, are doing that. So.. if no one is planning for business..how can there be any?

Up 17 Down 0

iBrian on Sep 19, 2020 at 9:09 pm

I would have to say more “Investors” have turned away due to being told who they have to partner with to do business here.
Those who are willing, are doing business here.
The land is the issue, but not so much the lots this article seems to cover.

Up 17 Down 1

No land on Sep 19, 2020 at 10:39 am

YTG and city have been focusing on residential lots. Industrial lots have been ignored because although the government wants us to believe they support business, this is a government town. One would have to wonder if there is even a land source to develop that is not First Nation owned. Other than lots being proposed at the tank farm, leased lots with the tax implications as mentioned are a roadblock to development. So either this is total incompetence by YTG and City of Whitehorse planning or it is preplanned to make First Nation leased lots the only option. Just as Yukon Energy has three sites for their battery installation, all are First Nations land. Nothing available or funding tied to a First Nation partnership.

Up 13 Down 1

moe on Sep 19, 2020 at 9:39 am

I remember the Sale's being interested in developing a commercial industrial plaza at the cut off, about 15 years ago. The neighbours in Golden Horn subdivision were complaining about their car wrecking business, Wayne proposed this idea, and they were against that too. I thought it was a great idea because it would have brought businesses out to the cut off. He did manage to rent a space to Route 13 - a very good car and truck repair place.

A lot of times it's neighbours who kill good ideas.

Up 7 Down 4

moe on Sep 19, 2020 at 9:32 am

I call Bulls**t that there's not 12 acres of land to be had in the Yukon for a mining support business. Maybe not in the center of town, but there has been plenty of land for sale on the Mayo Road etc.

Up 7 Down 5

Nathan Living on Sep 18, 2020 at 5:06 pm

There are many environmentally sensitive areas close to town that are good candidates for industrial development.
There may be a need to do some filling of the wet areas and relocation of creeks but industry needs these sites.

Up 19 Down 0

Oya on Sep 17, 2020 at 4:29 pm

Is this not something the Dept of Ec Dev should have their eyes on? Back in the day when I took some ec dev courses, making land available for economic development (businesses) was a KEY priority for anyone involved in economic development. If not THE first and foremost consideration in encouraging economic development, it certainly should be right up there at the top of the list. It's pretty difficult to have a thriving economic base if no one is thinking about property for those businesses, What exactly do they do in the Dept of Ec Dev?

Up 24 Down 4

My Opinion on Sep 17, 2020 at 3:31 pm

There is not much good flat land available in Whitehorse. Industrial Commercial needs flat land.
Everything you see around Whitehorse that looks like it could be developed is KDFN, CTFN, TA'AN or City Park lands. Have a look at the maps.

First Nation developed Leased lands will not work as businesses all have different building requirements and to invest millions for a specific building type on leased land will not happen. I would not invest on leased land ever. Not a chance.
Banks will not be interested in loaning the money either. The only way it may work is if the FN develop the land, build the infrastructure and lease them out so that businesses can leave when they want.

If these are First Nations land where the Taxes go to their First Nation then they should be paying for all of the infrastructure as they will receive the the Taxes.
By the way did you know that if you build a home on FN lands that not only do your property taxes go to the FN but your income taxes are redirected to the FN. Something that people should know.

Up 21 Down 5

stephen on Sep 17, 2020 at 12:49 pm

Can anyone not try and be political on a topic? You can't blame the Liberals as it occurred under previous governments too. What everyone in Whitehorse should be pissed at is all political parties and politicians from the municipal and territorial level for not bringing a lot of land online which would drive down prices. The only reason why they won't is because their Real estate friends would not be making so much money.

Time for politicians to step up and bring large tracks of land online to drive down real estate costs and open up land for industry. If they are not willing to do that then vote them out of office.

Up 24 Down 1

Denis on Sep 17, 2020 at 11:04 am

Same old story. I am aware of an incident in 1998 when outside investors had 30 million dollars to invest. One was a desire to purchase and expand out fish lake road and the 2nd was to purchase a local identified hotel to renovate and expand to 4 levels (floors). The only answer we could get from the City was it did not meet the OCP. They had leased a space for an office on condition of need and had more millions to invest. After 6 months of frustration they invested in Grande Prairie and Ft. St. John. They had no desire to own the Town.
And then along came NVD

Up 8 Down 10

martin on Sep 16, 2020 at 8:07 pm

CoW, since you're at it; try to develop more residential lots on infill areas. There are a few green patches I think you can develop; if you're willing. Ask any City Planner, higher density; less pollution. Otherwise don't come to us with no-idling policies

Up 13 Down 5

CH on Sep 16, 2020 at 5:35 pm

I'm curious as to where the new employees will be living once all this land is developed for commercial and industrial use? I've only lived here 10 years, but the city has been in perpetual housing crises mode since I first got here. It's quite the painful challenge to find a place to buy or rent; even the chamber of commerce reports that business owners are complaining their employees have no where to live.

I'm not quite sure I understand the rationale that this is the city's problem. Any business can apply for undeveloped land outside of city limits through YTG - the application fee is $25 + GST. I think these businesses should do a bit more legwork. If you outgrow a 5 acre lot in town and claim you need 15 hectares, maybe that's a sign you should be outside of town. At Whistle Bend density 15 hectares is over 180 residential single detached lots so I think that is a substantial amount of land for one business to get control over within city limits. Does the city really need to make it their priority to entice more people and businesses to come here when we cannot even manage everyone who's already here?

I'm surprised the article didn't even mention the related issue of a housing shortage; I figure this is what will be on most peoples' minds when they're reading this. I could be wrong but I do not think there will be a tremendous amount of sympathy from the general public about the lack of commercial or industrial space.

Up 35 Down 12

TMYK on Sep 16, 2020 at 3:17 pm

It's both land and rental prices that are driving people away. Now that the FN are in the space rental business and NVD owning everything the FN don't, prices will remain high. The Liberals have a vested interest in making sure they see profits over everyone else.

Up 19 Down 2

DA on Sep 16, 2020 at 2:42 pm

Does anybody know when commercial lots will be available in Whistle Bend?

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