However, there is no legal access to that undeveloped land, and no access to services like water and sewer. As the road to Walmart is privately owned, the Duncans cannot build an entrance to the back of their property. "Basically we have no access to the back of our lot," says Mr. Duncan, "We can't develop it without adding extra loads or existing access and without legal access we really can't do anything with it."
The road and the property in front of Walmart are owned by the company that owns the Totem Mall. Mr. Duncan says the road owners are unwilling to work with them, despite offers to purchase the road or sign a covenant saying they will not develop a competing business. He says he's met with the owners several times, and that he believes they purchased that land to be developed once the mall is full.
Mr. Duncan says that when the business started up in 2001, they thought there would be adequate access to the back of the property through the existing driveway.
"We didn't realize, and maybe we should have, that the wash would be so popular and have so much traffic going through it and we don't really feel that it's safe to have more traffic load on that driveway access to reach the back of our property."
The Duncans appeared before Fort St. John city council Monday evening to ask for that road to be expropriated, which means forcing the owners to sell their land. City Manager Dianne Hunter admitted that with current standards, policies and procedures, this situation would not be allowed to happen. She also pointed out that the lot remaining vacant goes against the city's growth patterns and plans for infill.
However, Council denied the Duncans' request, as it's in the best interest of the community to have the property owners resolve the issue themselves. City staff have also recommended that Mr. Duncan try to speak with the owner of the residential building east of his property, as there is room in the front of the property to create an access.