Whitehorse Daily Star

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Photo by Vince Fedoroff

INTENSE INTEREST – City council chambers were packed Monday evening with citizens interested in the proposed Official Community Plan amendment to allow a quarry in the Valleyview area.

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Photo by Photo Submitted

POTENTIAL QUARRYING SITE – This map shows the proposed location of the quarry in the Alaska Highway-Valleyview area. Map courtesy CITY OF WHITEHORSE

Quarry proposal raises residents’ concerns

A public hearing will be held on a proposed gravel quarry in the Valleyview area.

By Stephanie Waddell on March 12, 2019

A public hearing will be held on a proposed gravel quarry in the Valleyview area.

That became evident after a 5-2 vote Monday in favour of first reading for an amendment to the Official Community Plan (OCP) to designate the site as Natural Resource. A large group of citizens were on hand to hear the issue discussed.

Councillors Samson Hartland and Dan Boyd voted against first reading following a lengthy discussion among council and earlier presentations by five delegates speaking on the matter.

Ben Asquith, Da Daghay Development Corp.’s CEO, was also on hand at Monday night’s meeting with Ta’an Kwäch’än Council Chief Kristina Kane to answer city council’s questions about the plans.

Da Daghay is proposing the quarry on the 12.2-hectare site as part of an effort to lower the grade of the property (part of the Ta’an’s settlement land in the city) off the Alaska Highway.

The grade needs to be lowered because it currently can’t be developed due to height restrictions in place in light of the proximity to the Erik Nielsen Whitehorse International Airport.

In her presentation, Kane stressed quarrying on the site is not expected to be in place for decades, but rather simply to lower the grade so the planned development can happen.

“It is not a long-term project,” she said.

Asquith later suggested timelines of two, five or seven years depending on the market and how the effort moves forward. There’s no black and white when it comes to an exact timeline for quarrying.

The First Nation and development corporation also stressed their commitment to work with residents of the area.

“We want to work with Valleyview; we want to work with this community,” Asquith said, adding that ultimately, the goal is for the area to feature a beautiful development.

For that to happen though, the grade needs to be lowered – and that can happen through the proposed quarry.

As Asquith pointed out, the developers of the tank farm area behind the settlement land are already operating a similar quarry in order to get that site ready for development.

Residents of Valleyview who addressed council, however, voiced their opposition to the proposal, calling on the city not to move the matter forward.

Richard Runyon, the first to speak, highlighting numerous studies that point to health concerns that come for residents living near quarries.

He suggested children could face issues with lung development and could need regulators (breathing apparatus) when they’re outside if living within 400 metres of a quarry.

“I’m a bit dismayed if I have to get a regulator for my child to play outside – in Whitehorse – that’s a pretty disheartening thing,” Runyon said.

Sylvie Binette, the Valleyview Community Association’s president, told council “people are worried” about the health and safety issues that could come with further quarrying work in the area.

Questions exist around bank stabilization, impacts on ground water, monitoring of potential air pollution and more, Binette said.

She and others don’t understand why this is moving forward before these issues are resolved.

Similarly, another resident argued questions have gone unanswered around potential jobs, economic benefits and more.

She also said the development corporation’s proposal to reduce the required 300-metre buffer from residential areas to 15 m is “absolutely unacceptable.”

In light of the many issues, she said, the city should turn down the OCP amendment and change to buffer requirement.

Council also heard Ta’an citizen John Bunbury voice concerns he has with the proposal.

“I feel there’s not a real structured plan,” he said, adding the proposal needs proper planning and procedures in place.

During council’s discussion later in the meeting, members highlighted this as one of the most difficult decisions of this term, which began in late 2018.

Hartland highlighted sections of the First Nation’s land claims and self-government agreement pointing to the importance of sustainable development and the environment.

This parcel, he went on, was never identified for a gravel quarry, and the presence of one could lower the value of nearby properties.

At the same time as arguing against the site being used as a quarry, Hartland noted the need for the city to work with First Nations. He suggested there are provisions for properties to be swapped out for more developable parcels.

While he would not vote in favour of the OCP change moving forward, Hartland said, he does want the Ta’an to be successful and would like to see an alternative found for the First Nation.

Boyd, meanwhile, voiced his anxieties around the reduced buffer, noting it would be an incompatible land use and could create issues with the tank farm development.

He suggested ways to modify the land development, outside of operating a quarry, should be looked at.

Boyd noted he would like to see the city work with the Ta’an on the matter.

Other council members conceded there are concerns around the quarry proposal and questions that have yet to be answered. However, they were in favour of moving the OCP change forward to the public hearing stage ahead of second reading.

As Coun. Jan Stick said, she wants to hear all sides on the matter before making up her mind.

“It’s going to be a hard decision in the end,” she said.

Coun. Steve Roddick, who’s serving his first term as a councillor, pointed out this marks the most difficult decision since he was elected in October 2018.

“We have an obligation to the First Nations governments with whom we share land and jurisdiction here in Whitehorse,” he said.

“We also have responsibilities to make decisions that are in the interest of Valleyview residents, Hillcrest residents, and all Whitehorse residents when it comes to things like quality of life, health, and the enjoyment of their properties and neighbourhoods.”

Others also highlighted the potential to work toward a solution for all and the importance of listening to everyone who has an interest at the public hearing.

“I want to hear from everyone,” Mayor Dan Curtis said.

Along with the public hearing set for April 8, a public meeting hosted by the development corporation will be scheduled ahead of that.

A report on the public hearing would come forward April 29, with second reading scheduled for May 6.

If that’s approved, there would then be a 45-day ministerial review at the territorial level before it would come back for third reading.

It’s anticipated that third reading would come forward at council’s July 8 session.

Comments (12)

Up 8 Down 3

Its called Income Tax on Mar 16, 2019 at 6:36 pm

Sorry Patti; it’s called income tax for a reason. It has absolutely nothing to do with property. Whether I am renting or own my property I still pay income tax. This money is assessed by the government of the day in order to pay for schools, hospitals, roads and various other social programs. It’s not a redistribution of wealth, it’s there to pay the bills. It has nothing to do with sharing bread with First Nations. Their share would be the lease payment of the land one would assume. If someone leases my land would you think I should receive 90% of their income tax? I for one am still holding hope that all this is just poor reporting rather than a Liberal give away.

Up 2 Down 17

Patti Eyre on Mar 15, 2019 at 1:30 pm

Income tax is a retribution of wealth similar to the holy communion! I can see based on some comments on here that some people don't want to share bread with First Nations and while I don't agree with that close-mindedness I respect that people are entitled to believe what blight if they so choose! I prefer to live in the light and I have no problem sharing my income tax if I'm living on First Nation land. The solution here is simple double B: if you don't want to share your bread, don't sit at the table!

Up 7 Down 3

bruce mackenzie skea on Mar 14, 2019 at 2:41 am

Having lived in the west portion of Whse since arriving in Valleyview in 1966 and later in Hillcrest ..I would like to point out that the Canadian and American military built bunkers approximately 5 meters into the treeline, one the proposed site...maybe someone with a brain would investigate and check before raising a perfectly beautiful approach to Whse .

Up 9 Down 6

CJ on Mar 13, 2019 at 1:43 pm

@BB, I totally back you up on asking the Star to explain these land use agreements. I am really perplexed at this notion that income tax will be given to the First Nation, and I'm wondering if it's a misconception, and it's meant to say property tax. But it keeps coming up, so either debunk it or explain how that happens.

Where do you even find the actual agreement? Even that information would help.

As far as this proposed gravel quarry, I am pretty sure, if this is the same one that came up in the summer, that it was a long-term proposition, and the spokesperson implied that it was merely a courtesy the First Nation was extending, as it was a done deal in their mind. Not to split hairs, but I always find it annoying when it's suggested that media or the City of Whitehorse, or whoever, is spreading misinformation, when, as I recall, that was from the horse's mouth.

Up 19 Down 2

What OCP on Mar 13, 2019 at 12:17 pm

We seem to run into this way more often than we probably should. Our city spends a lot of money with studies, paid planners, public consultations to develop a “Offical Community Plan”. But what’s the point when you have big business or other governments applying pressure to have it changed. If we have this for a vision of the direction of our community then let’s try and stick to it. But it only seems to apply to individuals.

Up 10 Down 4

Bandit on Mar 13, 2019 at 12:08 pm

To expand on BB comment.
The one thing that really disturbs me is that the First Nation will collect upwards of 90% of the income taxes of every person who lives in this development. I do not understand the reasoning behind that, but that is the deal the governments negotiated.
So if I was to purchase a place in this development and paid my Income tax to the FN Government who do I file with in order to get my Tax refund? Revenue Canada or the FN? Where would my RRSP contributions go? Seems to be alot of ??? And to address the height restriction, I am not sure of the measurement from the centerline of the runway but I recall many years ago there was a house in Valleyview that was above the height restriction in relation to the wind shear factor calculation, but was approved by the CoW after Nav Canada identified the problem. I also think the YARC would be every bit as high as any lot they may develop. NO to this Quarry development, If anyone can think back 20 years ago what a traffic nightmare it was when the ground was excavated behind PNW Moving to fill in the Walmart marsh. Just say no.

Up 25 Down 0

Adam Smith on Mar 12, 2019 at 8:49 pm

A self governing first nation wants to develop a parcel of settlement land, they have been talking to the city for 2.5 years and they need more information. Come on. There is another story here.

Up 14 Down 1

Height restriction is the reason for a Quarry? on Mar 12, 2019 at 6:56 pm

Trees grow higher than houses, what is with the height restriction they are talking about vis a vis the airport? I have never noticed the trees being cut down to meet the height restriction. I can totally understand that we don't want airplanes crashing into houses in their new development but just how high are they planning to build these houses anyway? Twenty feet off the ground should do it and like I said, the trees are higher than that already anyway.

Or maybe this is an opportunity for semi-underground housing with south facing cut-outs from the ground, taking advantage of the air tight, insulative / heat / cool value of the earth, and keeping the height above ground one story. Could be a really interesting development. Work with what you've got if you really have no interest in the quarry in the first place. (other than to bring the level of the lot down).

Up 15 Down 9

BB on Mar 12, 2019 at 6:54 pm

I'm all for the First Nation building a business and developing an investment. But this specific investment is more than it appears on the surface.

The one thing that really disturbs me is that the First Nation will collect upwards of 90% of the income taxes of every person who lives in this development. I do not understand the reasoning behind that, but that is the deal the governments negotiated.

That money is supposed to pay for our medical programs, universities, schools, RCMP, and all the other things the government charges us taxes to provide (including additional programming for First Nations status people whatever their financial status). Where is that money going to come from? Will the First Nation be paying for hospitals, roads, social assistance and schools? No they will not. Someone explain to me how this is ethical or even how it makes sense. It's going to mean more taxes for working Canadians. The money has to come from somewhere.

Anyway, that's why they want a housing development folks. And it will be a 'very nice' development, because they want high earners in there. The higher the income taxes of the people who buy (lease) homes there, the more they get paid. It looks to be a very lucrative game. Imagine two $100,000 a year government employees, each paying $30,000 a year in taxes. The developer gets their $100,000 profit or whatever off the house they buy, but that's peanuts. The real game is the $5000 a month they collect for the rest of that couple's working life / however long they live there.

Yes, this development won't be is social housing, low income housing, or housing for their own First Nation members unless they have good jobs.

Whitehorse Star, could you please do an article on this so we can understand the details of this tax agreement and the reasoning that justifies it? Thank you.

Up 21 Down 3

Joe on Mar 12, 2019 at 6:43 pm

So I can't subdivide my lot in Sima but you're going to allow a quarry in a residential area?? What the f is wrong with this city.

Up 6 Down 21

Politico on Mar 12, 2019 at 4:14 pm

Bloody Bollocks. This sure brought the Nimbies out of the wood work with all their tired old sayings about death, destruction and loss of property values. The only reason they are against this is they are afraid of losing their private little play ground that no one is using right now. Any issue can be mitigated but the Nimby's want to send it back to planning for endless studies and arguments. There is no satisfying them.
The good thing is that once a decision is made nothing more is ever heard from them. It's as if all their issues evaporate into the ether.
Councilors Sampson and Boyd. Do you 2 vote anything but no?

Up 17 Down 4

Rubber stamping on Mar 12, 2019 at 4:13 pm

2, 5 or 7 years. Or as the previous article stated, 15 to 20 years. But it’s not black and white when it comes to the quarry. Most companies are capable of estimating yardage of what the site has available and how long it would take to produce and level the property. The proper way would to be have a total project including final development usage, before taking it to change the OCP. Unfortunately as Ben Asquith stated in a previous Yukon News article, they don’t feel that the OCP applies to the Ta’an and this is more a formality. I hope the best for the citizens of Valleyview and Whitehorse. By the sound of councillors and mayor, I think you can obviously see which way they lean. Working with other governments does not mean giving them everything they wish. This is a bad project and our city officials can’t seem to say that.

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