In the immortal words of Homer Simpson, “We don’t need a thinker! We need a doer: someone who’ll act without considering the consequences.”
In prolific developer Mike Mrdjenovich, Yellowknife may have been blessed with such a person.
Like it or not, Mr. Mrdjenovich gets things done. He came here in the 1970s, founded Nova Builders and developed dozens of properties in the city. In 2000, he opened his first Nova Hotel and now 15 of them are spread across the country from Kindersley, Sask., to Inuvik.
Dozens of his buildings dot Yellowknife’s skyline.
But he has a long history of breaking and bending bylaws.
In one of his recent conflicts with the authorities, Mrdjenovich began construction on the foundation of the recently completed 146-room Chateau Nova Hotel before the city issued him a building permit.
There are numerous media reports of his disregard for ecological concerns, which has angered the city’s progressive crowd.
And then there are his colourful comments.
One could reasonably claim that he’s our very own version of Donald Trump, which is why he did not seem out of character when he told a Yellowknifer reporter that we were fake news this week.
“Listen lady, you’ve been portraying me and making wrong accusations,” said Mrdjenovich to Yellowknifer’s Sidney Cohen. “You guys are fake media like Trump says. Just leave me alone and piss off, OK?”
For the record, we appreciate Mrdjenovich’s chutzpa and his can-do spirit.
We understand the difficulties of developing property in Canada’s North. The unyielding rock of the Canadian Shield, the short building season and the fact that most materials must be transported vast distances mean that construction costs are much higher up here.
But a number of residents are sick and tired of the mess in front of the newly opened Chateau Nova Hotel. It is unsightly and it might be illegal; that’s not fake news, it’s a fact.
“It’s really disgusting, it’s an eyesore,” resident Alida Walsh told Yellowknifer last week. “And that’s right at the entrance to the city. What kind of opinion would a visitor have driving into the city and seeing that dump, first thing?”
On Wednesday we reported that Bryan Mason, a retired military engineer and another perturbed resident, gave Cohen a walk-through of the site in front of the Nova.
In addition to stacks of detritus and piles of what might have been mining equipment, we reported that there were seven fuel drums being stored mere metres from a walking trail and Niven Lake. Their labels indicated they contained carcinogenic materials.
Mrdjenovich said they were empty, when in fact at least three of them were not.
According to guidelines for hazardous waste management published by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, several of the drums were being improperly stored.
We have reported that Mrdjenovich knows the city and members of the public want the site cleaned up.
If the mess isn’t cleaned up in a hurry, the city should enforce the zoning bylaw, which would force Nova Hotels to clear the site.
The bylaw states that if the owner does not comply, the city can do the work itself, bill the owner and put a lien on the property until the owner pays up.
Maybe then Mrdjenovich won’t act without thought of the consequences.