Yellowknife councillors have expressed concern over the illegitimate use of City land after it was determined that a local construction company had encroached onto land it doesn’t own.
RTL Construction is the current tenant of a sizeable portion of land on Old Airport Road near Borden Drive. But the City says the company is encroaching on an even bigger portion of land that it isn’t entitled to nearby – presumably for commercial purposes.
On Monday, councillors discussed whether or not it would be practical to legitimize the use of the encroached lands by establishing a lease agreement with the company.
Originally, administration suggested that a 10-year lease agreement be offered to RTL with the understanding that the company would conduct an environmental assessment on the site before terminating its lease.
But several councillors, including Dan Wong, suggested those recommendations don’t go far enough.
“They’re using land that they don’t own and that the City owns and they don’t have a lease for,” said Wong.
“The proposal from administration doesn’t go far enough. First of all that timeline is far too long – ten years is a decade.
“My fear with giving a decade-long lease is legitimizing that use in some way by saying, ‘it’s alright that you’ve been using this land in an unauthorized way because eventually we’ll just sort things out for you later.’
“In and around Yellowknife there are a lot of concerns about unauthorized use of land in many other ways.”
Wong says he’d also prefer to have an environmental assessment conducted at the front end of the lease to determine if the site has been contaminated.
“That area was heavily used in an industrial way for many years so we understand that it’s going to take some time to clean that up.
“But at the same time there has to be some type of urgency here to clean that up and make sure that the land and water is clean around Yellowknife.
“I’m just a little worried about what’s under that land. I think there is definitely a likely risk of contamination so the first step to me … is to pull an environmental assessment right from stage one.
“When we know that we can decide a fair timeline for cleanup. Right now it’s a little bit of shooting in the dark when we’re figuring out how long a lease should be.”
Wong says there’s also some added urgency to assess the site since it’s been highlighted as an area for future growth.
“The City right now, and this is very early in the game, is planning a whole new development in that area on the other side of Old Airport Road toward Frame Lake and Jackfish Lake.
“If it’s more of a residential subdivision, commercial lots or a mix of both, that’s an area that we’ve targeted for future growth.
“That’s why there’s even more urgency to get the encroached land cleaned up and tidied up.”
Councillors will likely debate options available to them in the next couple of weeks.