Two years after a frustrated Bryan Manson complained to the city about a pile of skids, rods and fuel drums scattered outside the Chateau Nova hotel, the remaining materials are finally being hauled away.
Trucks carried loads of mesh and bundles of rods from the site, located just metres from a walking trail that borders Niven Lake, on Wednesday afternoon.
In September, Manson shared his concerns about the unsightly area, which contained barrels of potentially hazardous substances at the time, after his complaints to city hall fell on deaf ears, he said.
Mike Mrdjenovich, the developer behind the 48 Street hotel – who denied the barrels contained harmful materials when interviewed by Yellowknifer – cleaned up a significant amount of junk at the site in October, including fuel drums, sea cans, pieces of wood and even a broken-down van.
But a substantial pile, now in the process of being hauled away, sat at the lot all winter.
After making several attempts to contact Mrdjenovich, Yellowknifer was unable to reach him before press time Thursday.
“It’s been years and it really annoys me,” said Manson, whom Yellowknifer caught up with at the site just as trucks began transporting materials away.
The materials sat at an important area of the city, sometimes called the “gateway to Yellowknife.” For many newcomers and tourists, the lot is one of the first things they see coming in from the airport.
While Manson – a resident at the nearby Niven Lake subdivision who frequently walks past the site – is glad to see the stubborn eyesore on its way out, he said the removal should never have taken so long. He blames the city for failing to step in and do something about it sooner.
“The city didn’t exercise any due diligence at all,” he said.
In 2017, when Manson and other residents asked about the site and complained about the presence of the lingering junk, he says the city “ignored the requests.”
“And when they do (reply) they say they’re working on it. That’s the typical response from the city,” he added.
Asked on May 1 whether the city had spoken with Mrdjenovich about removing the remaining materials, city hall spokesperson Richard McIntosh stated they would “be in communication with the hotel regarding moving of storage or confirmation of future work.”
The leftover materials that remained following the October cleanup “were expected to be used for future construction,” stated McIntosh.
But in September, Manson told Yellowknifer the leftover materials were meant for mining, not construction. He pointed out attached labels indicating the materials were destined for the Snap Lake Mine, which closed in 2015.
The mine’s owner, Deer Beers Canada, told Yellowknifer in September the materials weren’t theirs.
On top of the enduring eyesore, Manson says the materials shouldn’t have been left there in the first place. McIntosh confirmed Thursday that “outdoor storage is not a permitted use in the (Downtown Zone),” where the lot is located.
“The site is approved for hotel use but construction is not totally complete,” he added. “While owners are allowed to have items on their properties during construction, the city received many complaints about the state of the Nova property and has been working with Nova to encourage that they clean up the site.”
Manson said his experience is “100 per cent” part of a larger problem – a symptom of the city’s apparent unwillingness to crack down on problem junk and environmental eyesores, and its failure to adequately address complaints, in a timely and effective manner.
“You don’t get anywhere,” he said. “It’s very frustrating. You come to a dead end.”
Manson, a retired military engineer, now works for a tour company in town.
“I’ve had tourists ask, ‘what is that? What is all that stuff?’” recalled Manson, lamenting the fact that for many visitors, a “scrap yard” was their first impression of Yellowknife.
In the future, Manson said he wants the city to “actually follow their own policies.”
“They have the capability to make people, contractors, corporations do things,” he said, adding that he wants to see more efficiency and transparency from the city.