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Councillor under fire for WCB comments

Mike W. Bryant
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Dec 14/05) - City councillor Blake Lyons took a beating from colleagues Monday, after suggesting council has no business telling WCB where they can and can't build because they've bent the rules for other developments in the past.

"We've done this before," said Lyons at the priorities, policies and budget committee meeting.

"How do we say no when we entertain site-specific zoning."

Lyons commented during a discussion of presentations made at a public hearing into a re-zoning request that would allow the NWT/Nunavut Workers' Compensation Board to construct a stand-alone office tower on Old Airport Road.

The property is zoned for commercial use, which excludes single-use office buildings. The WCB wants a site-specific zoning that would relax the rules so they can move from their downtown location, which they say is too small.

Lyons pointed to other favourable rulings on site-specific requests, including one earlier this year that allowed double-wide trailers in Phase VI of Niven Lake.

"Are we going to tell people what can go where?" asked Lyons.

Other councillors said that's exactly what council has to do at times.

"I think, in fact, it's our responsibility to restrict zoning in the city," said Coun. Doug Witty. "We don't put day cares in an industrial zone."

"It doesn't mean just because you have a site-specific (request) you have to grant it," said Coun. Bob Brooks.

Monday's debate also grabbed hold of changes to the way hearing rulings are handed down by administration. Past public hearings were typically followed by point-by-point rulings addressing each argument.

Councillors appeared surprised to see that there were none attached to the agenda, but rather an "observation" summarizing presentations at the Nov. 14 hearings.

The administration report sides with opponents of the WCB move, saying that downtown has been promoted as the "primary centre for commercial and office development" in several past general plans.

"I don't think this way of proceeding best serves our public," said O'Reilly, insisting presenters have a right to know what the city decides on each argument. "It's fundamentally undemocratic and a step backwards."

City administrator Max Hall said the change came with the new City, Towns, and Villages Act passed by the legislative assembly earlier this year.

Other councillors disagreed with O'Reilly, saying that the new process is less "arduous" and still public.

"The public has been heard and that's all we need to do," said Woytuik.

Council will vote on the WCB request Jan. 9.