Some city councillors are opposed to the municipality’s proposal to sell a piece of waterfront property to help a local, growing business comply with municipal zoning requirements after the owner/operator said it’s not what she’s seeking.
Cathy Allooloo wants to buy a piece of commissioner’s land immediately next to the property where she’s lived and done business for the last 30 years.
She operates two home-based businesses there and, after obtaining the written blessing of the Back Bay Community Association, she’s asking the City of Yellowknife to allow her to purchase 567 square metres of “nature preserve” property adjacent to her site.
“The neighbours are on board,” she told the city’s Governance and Priorities Committee on Nov. 1.
Allooloo applied to city hall to purchase a piece of commissioner’s land abutting the northwest border of her property.
When city staff looked into the request, they noted the size and nature of NARWAL Northern Adventures means it’s in contravention of the city’s zoning bylaw, noting NARWAL uses structures already sitting on city property. City staff told the committee that the businesses Allooloo operates can no longer be considered accessory in nature, a requirement of her property’s current zoning as a personal residence.
To operate a home-based enterprise under her property’s current zoning, the only business staff allowed on the property are those who also live there, and NARWAL employs staff who live offsite.
Despite the infractions, city staff say they’re continuing to work with Allooloo to find a solution.
“This is the kind of use and transition we’re looking to be supportive of,” city manager Sheila Bassi-Kellett said.
Allooloo told the committee she’d be able to move her mobile canoe trailers off public property if the city would approve the sale of the lot she covets. Taking possession of that lot would also allow her to level it to avoid spring runoff or heavy rains from flooding her home’s crawlspace. She noted all of the alternatives offered by city staff were “more intrusive” than her original ask.
The city offered to sell her the waterfront land to expand the business’ parking area, which would pave the way to compliance for the property’s current use under the bylaw — so long as the owner/council agree to proceed with re-zoning for Old Town mixed use, as committee chairperson Rebecca Alty suggested.
Coun. Niels Konge said he feared that by selling the waterfront property to Allooloo, the city would be approaching “a very slippery slope.”
“I hear in this we’re opening up waterfront property?” he said during the meeting. “Have we considered the precedent this would set?”
Alty said she wants to work with Allooloo to find an arrangement that would work for the business and city bylaws, but she acknowledged it’s a difficult task when council is just a week away from its first reading of the updated zoning bylaw.
Allooloo told the committee the dock, installed in the early 1980s, has always been community-accessible and maintained at the expense of her business.
“It is not used as a private dock,” she said.
Coun. Shauna Morgan asked Allooloo what she planned to do if council denied her re-zoning request.
“I’ll probably continue to operate here the same as we have over the last 30 years, ” Allooloo said. “If this land is made available my footprint will be reduced.”