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City rejects territorial land-swap offer

GNWT prepared to evict tenants

Nathan VanderKlippe
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Aug 30/02) - The territorial government is prepared to swap land and evict tenants to get city-owned land near the hospital.

So far, the city doesn't like what has been offered.

One of the properties offered to the city is now home to the Native Women's Association of the NWT at 5017-49 St., across the street from the Yellowknife Inn.

That came as news to a person contacted at the Association's office.

"You're the first to tell me about it," said a person reached at the Women's Association. "I haven't heard anything."

Stanton Territorial Hospital wants the 1.78 hectares of property next to it on Old Airport Road to meet its expansion needs over the next 20 years.

Plans include a cardiac rehabilitation program, a fetal assessment unit, full-time gerontology program, and enhanced cancer care centre.

According to Coun. Robert Hawkins, "the city isn't in the landlord business," and councillors recoiled at the notion of accepting properties whose tenants might need to be moved out.

The GNWT offered to evict those tenants and find new homes for them in order to swing the deal.

Brian Austin, director of land administration for the GNWT, said the territorial government "wouldn't be selling property out from someone's feet.... If there was ever a decision made, certainly part of the consideration would be in dealing with existing interests on those properties," he said.

Land offered the city in late July includes an empty lot on Matonabee St., and a government address on Mitchell Dr., on Latham Island. The Women's Association lot and building are assessed at $446,090. The 1999 assessed value for the lot by the hospital is $744,000. The market value is likely higher.

Other land suggested

Hawkins has suggested the government trade land near the Dettah ice road landing. It would fit into the city's waterfront development scheme.

Coun. Alan Woytuik would like the old liquor warehouse, which he said is of about equal value and size to the hospital land.

Mayor Gord Van Tighem said the city will take either cash or land.

"It's about equivalent for us," he said, adding that a land swap is "better for them."

However, Hawkins suggested that the GNWT seems to be applying a double standard. Earlier this summer, the department of justice sent the city a letter offering cash for the Gerry Murphy arena site. The city was already contemplating an offer on the site from the Elks Lodge, and returned the letter, he said.

Coun. Ben McDonald said cash is best. The city's land fund has a million-dollar deficit. "I think we would much rather be that it be some sort of clean, outright purchase. That's the easiest way for us to go," he said.

The city says it has developers interested in the land near the hospital but would rather it go to the government.