After months of debate, and decades of negotiations of turmoil with the city of Yellowknife, the Yellowknife Dog Trotters Association (YDTA) will finally get a chance to own its communal lot in Kam Lake.
During a Aug. 17 city council meeting, the mayor and councilors heard final presentations from Jordee Reid, president of the YDTA, and Peter Curran, a concerned resident of Kam Lake, before finally voting to let YDTA purchase the 191 Curry Dr. lot.
“There are still negotiations to take place but I think a lot of us are happy that it's come through,” said Reid.
“It's like a big sigh of relief that now we can move forward. We've been in limbo since the ten year lease was brought up in 2007. We were always uncertain. This is officially our home now and we can finally treat it that way.”
Despite initially asking for the lot for zero dollars as an act of reconciliation, the YDTA will now enter a payment plan with the city so that they may acquire the lot for the appraised value minus work done to the land.
In a previous meeting the lot, which it at capacity with 250 dogs, was appraised at $360,000.
The city will hold title over the land until the payments are complete and their stipulations are met.
Last month council heard from the YDTA, who after residing on their Kam Lake lot for 40 years, was not interested in moving to a new lot despite perceived incompatibility with community planning in the area.
Council seemed as though it was going to “kick the can down the road” and extend the soon-expiring lease on the dog lot by two years before deciding its fate.
The decision was reached after much debate and thought on behalf of council.
“I've put a lot of thought into this over the past several weeks and have had several discussions with constituents,” said Coun. Robin Williams.
“I certainly don't want to be a part of a council that kicks this down the road and even though it's a tough decision, I think this council needs to make a decision.”
Williams said he believes in the free market and if the YDTA has ownership over the lot they could sell it down the road if they found another lot they themselves found suitable.
After council shot down the plan to postpone the decision until after the community plan, Coun. Shauna Morgan came with a new motion to sell the lot to the YDTA.
This came with the stipulations that there would be a payment plan and the YTDA was responsible for adding a fence around the property and are to install a drainage system.
Coun. Niels Konge was the only member of council who did not support the plan.
Konge said that there was a lot of community consultation between 2012 and 2015 and the decision was that kennels are incompatible and extending the lease for two years would not kick the decision down the road.
“I think it is allowing us to properly plan where this use should be done in a compatible way in the community.”
He expressed concern that allowing YDTA to own the lot and continue using it despite dog kennels being labeled as an incompatible use in the neighborhood would “open a can of worms.”
“If a new motion passes and that is the will of council, that is fine, but administration will have to have to open the planning of Kam Lake again and look at was changed in 2015 and make some changes," said Konge.
"There's going to have to be a new community plan in Kam Lake because there are other owners in Kam Lake that used to have uses that are no longer approved.”
Konge said if council allows the dog trotters to stay there and use the land, all other incompatible uses will have to be reviewed.
“We would have to do this right,” said Konge. “We owe it the community of Kam Lake.”
Coun. Shauna Morgan said Konge's argument is well reasoned but she does not think it is council's place to make decisions for the YDTA as to where they are located.
“I just don't think that's realistic and I don't think it's ethical in this context,” said Morgan.
“So I know attempts have been made over the past many years to fix this problem and find them a place, but essentially where it went wrong is not having good faith negotiations with the YDTA.”
“Now is our chance to settle this and allow the dog trotters to decide the best place for them.”
Despite Konge's concerns, council voted in favour of the new motion, marking a historic day for the YDTA.
“I've stated many times on public record in this room that I am not in favour of forcing a move on the dog trotters and I think at one point I need to stop saying that and actually stand behind those words,” said Coun. Julian Morse.
“In my entire time here as councillor, I've never encountered a group as passionate as the dog trotters have been in trying to protect their interest in that lot and to you guys I want to say thank you for the courage you've shown standing up and talking to us about something that matters to you.
“It's time to finally give everyone involved in this some peace, the peace in a decision being made whether they like the decision or don't like the decision and we can move forward planning the future of the community.”
Coun. Stacie Smith said the words "honour and integrity" came to mind when thinking about joining a city council that made important decisions for the community.
“Whether it was vocal or written, the city gave a promise,” said Smith. “I wouldn't want to be a part of community that doesn't honour promises.”
Smith said that as a council they don't have a right to say that we can find a better place for the dog trotters because you're here telling us this is the best place for us.
“Who are we to tell you 'no it's not'?” asked Smith.
With the city entering this agreement, and administration saying they will get to work right away, Reid said the YDTA can plan for their future.
“Now we have our lot, expansion will come from that and that's where the future is going to come,” said Reid.
“There's going to transitioning with mushers and new generations coming so this will give them options.”