Sorting out land use in Iqaluit
As Iqaluit’s population expands year after year, it’s to be expected that growing numbers of people will compete for shrinking expanses of open space.
This includes open space that once accommodated many types of informal, traditional and unregulated uses.
As of this year, the city’s population now stands at about 7,250. Based on Statistics Canada estimates, this figure appears to grow annually by at least 250 people. This means that every four years, Iqaluit adds about 1,000 people, or more, to its population.
A potentially dangerous fire that destroyed five shacks on the Inuit-owned beach strip in Iqaluit highlighted one aspect of the space-competition issue. The construction of unauthorized cabins in other spaces, especially the West 40 area, highlights another.
It’s no surprise, then, that the City of Iqaluit is now attempting to exercise its responsibilities in a more robust manner. That’s the core function of municipal government: the management and regulation of land use, to protect public safety and to resolve disputes between rights-holders.
The city has issued notices to those who have built illegal cabins in open spaces, informing owners that their structures are illegal, and that only temporary structures, like tents, are allowed in such spaces.
But wisely, they’ve so far avoided the use of heavy-handed coercion. They haven’t yet ordered that any of those structures be removed, although that could likely start eventually.
Instead, they’ve organized a public meeting on Aug. 22 to inform people about the zoning bylaw. At the same time, city council has directed staff to look at the idea of allowing cabins on other municipal lands that lie further away from populated areas.
On the beach shack issue, the city is required to work with a private landlord: the Qikqtani Inuit Association. That’s because a 30.5-metre strip along the seacoast is designated within the Nunavut land claims agreement as Inuit-owned land.
Unfortunately, parts of this strip have degenerated into public safety and environmental hazards. Many shacks are well maintained. But others have been left to rot. Some sit too close together, surrounded by highly flammable refuse that includes old oil drums, jerry cans, kerosene containers and other junk. Unless this is corrected, the type of fire that destroyed five shacks this past July could happen again — something nobody wants.
As a show of good faith, the city has voluntarily removed the charred remains of last month’s burned out shacks — even though that, technically, is a responsibility of the landlord.
To reciprocate this gesture, the QIA should do whatever’s required to clean up the mess on the beach lands that they own. Like lands controlled by other private landlords, Inuit-owned lands are subject to municipal bylaws, and at some point in the future, the city will have no choice but to enforce them.
For now, though, a co-operative approach is likely the best way for all affected parties to get started.
Another issue related to the use of open spaces has also attracted the attention of the city: ATV use in prohibited areas, especially Sylvia Grinnell Park.
For this issue, the fix is easy: enforce the law. The irresponsible and damaging use of four-wheelers and trucks within green spaces is inexcusable, especially on the part of those who openly ignored warning signs that read “No ATVs.” When this occurs within the boundaries of Sylvia Grinnell Park, the Government of Nunavut should play a major role in helping city staff enforces the law.
At the same time, the city should step up effort to create designated ATV trails and designated off-roading areas, including a better system of snowmobile trails for the winter.
All of these issues flow directly and naturally from the city’s growth. It’s encouraging to see the City of Iqaluit take notice. JB