Hey neighbour: Plans for worker camp catch Yellowknife homeowners by surprise

Plans for a 250-person work camp next door is taking people who live in a Yellowknife neighbourhood by surprise.

'They should find another place where there's no neighbourhood,' says father of 2

The Kam Lake lot where the companies building Yellowknife's new hospital want to house up to 250 workers starting this summer. (CBC)

Right now it's just a grim, somewhat apocalyptic-looking gravel lot dotted with the dried-out husks of car tires.

But by the end of the summer, the large front yard of Yellowknife's Kam Lake Industrial Centre could be home to as many as 250 tradespeople coming to the city to build the new Stanton Territorial Hospital.

The scenario — which will be discussed today at noon by Yellowknife city councillors — is taking people who live in the neighbourhood by surprise.

Hall Crescent is in one of Yellowknife's newest neighbourhoods and is home to several families. (CBC)

"This neighbourhood is quiet," said Ashfaq Khan, a homeowner on Hall Crescent and a father of two kids aged six and 13.

"And there's no fence," he added, referring to the lack of a barrier separating the end of the street and the lot directly beside it. (See video below.)

On Friday a memo released by the City of Yellowknife revealed that Clark Builders and Bird Construction — the companies tapped by the N.W.T. government to build the $300-million new hospital — applied to the city on April 29 for a zoning change to allow for a temporary, possibly two-year camp on the lot.

The companies hope to finish erecting the site by September.

A letter about the potential camp one woman received by the City of Yellowknife on Friday. (CBC)

Though the city began mailing out notification letters to neighbours on May 17, a half-dozen Hall Crescent residents first learned of the news Friday from CBC News.

One woman — whose back deck would directly overlook the construction camp — had a notification letter delivered to her by someone driving a City of Yellowknife car just moments before I knocked on her door.

'There are noise bylaws'

The lot at Kam Lake Industrial Centre is owned by Joe Leonardis, whose business, J.S.L. Mechanical, is located inside the building facing the lot.

Joe Leonardis owns the lot that is the proposed home of the construction worker camp. (CBC )

If city councillors ultimately sign off on the camp, Leonardis will lease the property to the hospital builders.

He's done it for nickel explorers and other camp dwellers before. 

"We never had any problems back then, because camp rules are pretty strict," he said.

"There are noise bylaws and everything. Any of our leases state that they have to abide by all the laws of the area."

Leonardis says he hasn't talked to the people on Hall Crescent.

"I haven't talked to anybody, nor would I want to influence anybody's thoughts."

'They should find another place'

Khan's opinion is clear enough, however.

"They should find another place where there's no neighbourhood," he said. 

"Is there land available?" said Leonardis in response to that idea. "I don't think so. Yellowknife is pretty well locked in."

The front sign that greets drivers pulling into the Kam Lake Industrial Centre. (CBC)

Bird and Clark's application for the zoning change suggests as much. 

The Kam Lake lot "is the only lot that is large enough to comfortably set the camp up on," the companies wrote. "The lot is ideally located for access to our site and minimizing impact on local community."

The companies say they can't get enough apartments or hotel rooms for the workers. 

What's next 

A public hearing on the rezoning request is scheduled for June 13.

After that, Clark Builders and Bird Construction will need a development permit to erect the camp.

Once that permit is finalized, people will have two weeks to appeal it.

Today's early discussion at city hall is open to the public.