The purple cabin at the corner of 6th Avenue and Lambert Street in Whitehorse is at the center of a dispute between its owner, the man who lives there, and the Government of Yukon, which owns the land on which it sits.
The cabin’s owner Leonard Tarka and Eric DeLong, who rented and lived there for the past four years, received notices ordering them to vacate the property on October 1.
DeLong is not going anywhere, as he believes the way the cabin property was leased to Tarka in the early 1990s is forcing the Yukon government to renew the lease.
The lease was finalized in 1991 after Tarka followed the process set out in the Government of Yukon’s Squatter Policy. In 1988, the Squatter Review Committee recommended the life lease for the property; Piers McDonald, then Minister of Community Services and Transportation, endorsed it.
The lease states that Tarka’s property is “to be had and kept for 30 years, or the life of the tenant from October 1, 1991”. DeLong and Tarka interpret this to mean that the lease should be renewed because Tarka is still alive.
The Yukon government sent a letter to Tarka in August advising them that the lease would not be reissued and that it had to ensure the removal of all structures before it expired on September 30.
The government’s position stated in the letter is that because the Yukon Land Law does not allow leases of more than 30 years, Tarka’s lease should be read as having a term of 30 years or less if he died before it expired. The government maintains that they are not required to renew the lease.
DeLong said he was not happy with this and believes the decision not to renew the lease flies in the face of the intent with which it was originally negotiated with the Squatter Review Board and approved by the minister. He wonders why the lease was called a âlife leaseâ in the first place if it could be so easily terminated after 30 years.
The life lease is not defined in the squatters policy or in the Land Law. DeLong noted that the policy empowered the review board to set the terms of the lease pending final ministerial approval.
The government also cites slope stability issues based on a 2002 geohazard study in its letter to Tarka. DeLong presented a more recent report from 2012 on the escarpment area. The summary of this report indicates that the cabin is in the moderate risk area and that it appears compatible with the city plan for this part of the city center.
A map attached to the letter shows an existing berm, created by a trail that DeLong said was once the access road to the Whitehorse airport, between the cabin and the escarpment. The summary indicates that maintenance to ensure the integrity of the berm is critical to reducing risk in the area.
Earth, which Delong said slipped off the hill this spring, did not appear to cross the path.
The cabin property is now zoned for mixed commercial residential use rather than the protected environmental zoning of other escarpment control areas. Despite this, the Yukon government’s letter to Tarka indicates that the city of Whitehorse does not support a new lease on the site.
DeLong has launched a Facebook page and an accompanying GoFundMe campaign called âSave the Purple Cabin from Yukon Bureaucratsâ. At the time of going to press, 188 people had liked the page and $ 1,405 had been donated.
He said he really enjoyed living in the cabin due to its convenient downtown location mixed with rustic charm and nature right by the back door.
âEveryone who visits here has a bit of the same feeling about it, just that it’s a little oasis right in the middle of town.â
Contact Jim Elliot at [email protected]