Downtown residents tell council development is needed

Whitehorse’s Old Town is decrepit and decaying, Whitehorse citizens told council at a public hearing at city hall Monday night.

Whitehorse’s Old Town is decrepit and decaying, Whitehorse citizens told council at a public hearing at city hall Monday night.

Most want it spruced up.

The hearing was called to air ideas about proposed amendments to the city’s downtown plan.

The city wants to ban the building of new apartment buildings and other multi-family dwellings west of Sixth Avenue.

“The Old Town area is an under-developed slum area,” said downtown resident Carol Oberg.

“I think there really needs to be something to encourage developers going in there.”

Most of the assembled delegates at the meeting agreed with her.

By not allowing development in Old Town, the city would be creating a stagnant neighbourhood where property values would continue to fall, they said.

“Some of the housing is very shoddy in that area,” said Oberg.

The historic significance of the buildings in Old Town is debatable, said resident Bob Lorimer at the meeting.

“The older buildings are run down and cannot be renovated,” said Lorimer.

Councillor Doug Graham asked if Oberg and Lorimer would oppose “special-development areas” in downtown and Old Town, where developers would receive incentives like tax breaks for building in those areas.

“I just threw that question out there to see what people thought,” said Graham after the meeting.

“Yes, one of the special development areas could be in Old Town,” he said.

People were also concerned about the proposal to increase the building height restriction to eight storeys.

The current limit is four storeys.

“Whitehorse is known as a wilderness city, not the Calgary-wannabe-city or the mini-Van.,” said Ted Garland, who arrived in Whitehorse 30 years ago after a canoe trip and never left.

“If we build an eight-storey building the people on the top will have the better view,” he said.

“Plus you’ll be taking away the quality of life and the beauty of the city and I think that’s a very poor idea.”

Garland asked council to use discretion when approving a developer’s wish to build an eight-storey building because, he said, these buildings would block out the views of the mountains that smaller buildings currently have.

“I don’t want to see the uglification of Whitehorse take place right under my nose,” he said.

“We haven’t decided what we are going to allow yet; we’re just feeling the ground,” councillor Dave Stockdale told Garland.

I don’t support eight-storey buildings, except in certain areas, said Stockdale.

Kirn Dhillon, who attended the meeting, was in support of taller buildings in Whitehorse.

He cited Yellowknife, which has buildings as tall as 14 storeys, as an example of what Whitehorse could be.

“I personally will not approve an eight-storey building anywhere in the downtown area,” said Graham who added that maybe eight-storey buildings could be placed somewhere near the clay cliffs.

Council received 31 written submissions about the amendments to the downtown plan and in each there was at least one stated opposition to at least one of the amendments, said city manager Dennis Shewfelt.