Court suspends plans for housing development at Takhini Hot Springs

The owner of the Takhini Hot Springs has been developing a plan for housing on a 99-hectare property around the hot springs. The Yukon Supreme Court says the neighbours must be consulted first.

Yukon Supreme Court finds Yukon government hadn't consulted neighbours before approving plan

Takhini Hot Springs owner Garry Umbirch says the ruling will slow down his plans to develop housing, but he hopes it will help bring the neighbours onside. (Dave Croft/CBC)

A Yukon Supreme Court judge has suspended a government-approved development plan for the Takhini Hot Springs area outside of Whitehorse, saying the neighbours weren't properly consulted.

Takhini Hot Pools owner Garry Umbrich and his partners have spent the past decade making plans for a housing development on the 99-hectare property that surrounds the hot springs.

They signed a development agreement with the government, but the neighbours say the government failed to talk to them first, and they sued.

The neighbours worry about a plan for a "clustered housing development" on the property, such as condos. They argued that would change the tenor of a rural residential neighbourhood.

"If any one of us owned a business, we would want to see it prosper. However, this is looking more like a land development than it is for hot springs development," said Brian Farrell, president of the neighbourhood residents association.

Justice Miriam Maisonville agreed that the government failed to consult the neighbours before approving the plan, and she put a stop to any development until that's done.

'Clarity in the process'

Umbrich says he understands the ruling, saying the government clearly missed a step along the way.

"It's not a reflection on Takhini Hot Springs because we're not party to that lawsuit, we're sort of the third party that's affected by it all," he said.

The court ruling applies only to the proposed housing development, and not Umbrich's other plans to develop the actual hot springs complex. (Yukon Quest)

"So I think this judgement puts some clarity in the process." 

He says the consultations will slow down his development plans, but he hopes to win his neighbours over in the end.

"If we don't put those residences down there where we plan to put them, next to our neighbours, then we would be looking at some type of commercial development down there — and I think that would be even less compatible for the neighbourhood," he said.

There's no word from the Yukon government on how soon the consultations will happen. Land Planning Director Jerome McIntyre said neighbours would be consulted as part of the process after the developers make application for the required zoning change.

The dispute is only over the proposed housing development, and not Umbrich's other plans to develop the actual hot springs complex.


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