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Iqalungmiut left out of Iqaluit council’s capital plans

Bureaucrats from the Town of Iqaluit and the federal government have all but decided where Iqaluit’s new Nunavut buildings will be located ­ but only now will Iqalungmiut get a chance to see what’s been decided for them.

By NUNATSIAQ NEWS

ANNETTE BOURGEOIS

It’s Friday afternoon.

The downtown area of Iqaluit is congested with vehicles and pedestrians, as people leave work, go to the bank, pick up children from daycare, and stop at a restaurant for dinner.

The dust swirls around broken pavement as scores of people, unassisted by sidewalks, try to keep out of the path of traffic.

The “four corners” area ­ where the Ring Road crosses the Airport Road ­ is the busiest area in Nunavut’s capital.

That’s why many people are puzzled that it’s the spot chosen by Iqaluit Town Council as the site for two new Nunavut government office high rises.

Iqaluit town councillors gave federal officials permission last fall to consider the downtown location as the site for office buildings for federal and Nunavut government employees.

Plans unveiled next week

For months they’ve been tight-lipped about what’s planned for the area, but next week they’ll reveal their plans to a Town committee.

The newly renovated Parnaivik Building, headquarters of the Qikiqtani Inuit Association, Nunavut Tunngavik Inc and Qikiqtaaluk Corporation, as well as other offices, shares part of a corner lot with the federal government.

Across the road on the opposite lot sits an old military building, home to Nunanet, Iqaluit’s Internet service provider.

The Kamotiq Restaurant occupies another corner facing the Iqaluit Hunters and Trappers Association building and Nunavut Arctic College’s arts and crafts centre.

“We thought of the downtown area as being the most favorable,” said Brian Hellwig, chair of the Town’s development committee, which will hear three development proposals for the area next Wednesday.

A traffic nightmare?

QIA President Lazarus Arreak disagrees. He said an already hazardous traffic situation will worsen when dozens more people are working in the area.

He said the Town has major work to do to improve the current situation, including widening the road, installing traffic lights, and constructing sidewalks.

“And they’re thinking of adding 40 or 50 more cars to the area?” Arreak said. “We’re very concerned with safety.”

The council committee will get a look at three plans to develop the four corners lots at the July 2 meeting. The meeting is open to the public, but there’s no formal process to allow people to make presentations.

However, Arreak said he’s planning to ask the committee to let him voice his concerns.

“That’s when they get into trouble ­ when a project of this magnitude is done with very little input,” he said.

Public shut out of the process?

And it’s not just QIA members who are unhappy with how the public has been shut out of the process. Several groups have approached the Town recently requesting that it hold a public meeting, but that request was denied.

Iqaluit Chamber of Commerce President Mike Hine said the development of the downtown core has a direct effect on the business community and it wants a say.

But time for public consultation is running out. The federal government wants to have the design for the buildings completed by August in order to have everything in place for the 1998 construction season.

Hine fears the public is being left out of a process being driven by federal bureaucrats in the South.

One of the organizations most affected by the four corners development is the Hunters and Trappers Association.

Affected agencies left in the dark?

Their building would have to be moved or torn down to make way for offices or parking space. HTA secretary Sara Phillips said she’s unaware of any plans to develop the area and no one has ever contacted the association.

Nunavut Arctic College, whose arts and crafts building is less than 10 years old, is one of the few organizations that hasn’t been left in the dark. Iqaluit Campus Director Dave Wilman met with Town staff and federal officials Tuesday afternoon to discuss the project.

Wilman wouldn’t comment on the college’s position until he has a chance to talk with Nunavut Arctic College President Greg Welch, who’s on vacation.

It’s expected that arts and crafts centre would also have to be moved to pave way for the development. The meeting was to encourage college officials to come on side with federal officials.

“It was to discuss a parcel of their land and brief them on the future aspirations of one of their lots and building,” said Iqaluit’s town engineer, Ian Mosher.

Council will decide

After federal officials present their three options to the committee member, they can either outrightly reject all of them or choose one and recommend that design to council. Council will meet Tuesday to decide on any recommendations.

Whether or not the public will have a say in that process is up in the air as see-sawing continues about who’s responsibility it is to let Iqaluit residents know what’s going on.

Mosher said it’s up to the federal government, not the Town, to advertise if it wants the public to be informed.

“We don’t really think we should take the ball and we’ve made that clear to the federal government,” Mosher said. “We don’t see it being our role to take responsibility for a presentation to the public, public opinion or a presentation to the committee. It’s their development.”

Mosher added, however, he’s planning to personally invite several groups.

“It’s our intent to call all the community group representatives and it’s up to them to inform their members,” he said. “We don’t plan to advertise.”

Residents can be kept in the dark

If council approves a motion to accept one of the three plans, it isn’t obligated to inform Iqaluit residents of that decision. It must, though, hold a public meeting if it plans to amend a bylaw. Bylaw amendments will depend on the type of development accepted for the area.

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