No development of McIntyre Creek, say residents

A government plan to open the McIntyre Creek area to development is a poor use of land, say local residents.

A government plan to open the McIntyre Creek area to development is a poor use of land, say local residents.

“There should be no development of the land,” said Jocelyn Laveck, an 18-year resident of Porter Creek.

“The government isn’t listening to what people said. The majority of people want it to stay as green as possible — more than just a wildlife corridor.”

The territory decided there is enough room in the large wooded area south of the Porter Creek subdivision to accommodate development.

A new report based on several rounds of public meetings and surveys concludes the area can sustain development of new lots and a college expansion while adequately protecting wildlife.

“The solution helps to maintain useable public accessible green space, addresses the current land shortage crisis in Whitehorse (and) accommodates Yukon College’s requirement for more land,” says the eight-page report, written by the Community Services department.

The solution expands the property tax base to benefit the Yukon economy, the report adds.

Governments need to take a longer view of development in the territory, said Laveck.

“This (report) is a knee-jerk reaction to developers,” she said.

“When I first moved here (33 years ago) there were no houses and we lived in a trailer for six months before we could buy a house.

“I didn’t expect the city to build a subdivision for me.”

The government’s conclusion doesn’t reflect the information in the report, she said.

Overwhelmingly, the people responding to surveys and attending meetings spurn development and support keeping the area green.

“Certain discoveries about the McIntyre Creek area were made clear,” says the report.

“One of them was how attached neighbouring residents are to the area.”

Owned by the territory, the 320-hectare piece of land in question sits between the Yukon College’s campus and Porter Creek, bordered by the Alaska Highway on the west and Mountainview Drive on the east.

The protected park area is used by bird watchers, hikers and bikers. Students are routinely taken there to study nature. The wetlands and ponds house beaver, waterfowl and amphibians. Fish can be found in the creek.

In 1992, the government announced it would endow the land to the college and talks have been taking place since.

A number of issues — such as whether the land was to be held in perpetuity or could be sold off to raise funds for the college, and whether the land would be chosen as part of First Nation land settlements — complicated the endowment.

Porter Creek residents supporting endowment lands are worried the college will carve the land into lots and sell them off to developers.

“The majority of my neighbours like McIntyre the way it is — that’s the nature of people who live here,” said Laveck.

“Just about everybody I know feels the same way. It’s not always about the business bottom line.”

The land was identified and zoned for potential residential infill in the city’s 2002 official community plan — a document guiding all development in Whitehorse.

In 2005 and 2006, the territory and Whitehorse conducted several rounds of meetings to gauge public and industry opinion on the land.

“It doesn’t surprise me the government took the easy way out,” said Jeff Marynowski, Porter Creek Community Association president.

“What they’ve designated for lots is the flat, easily developed land and left behind the swamps and cliffs for green space,” he said. “The nice walkable land is used up. It’s a poor way to plan land.”

The document is a shoddy piece of work, added Marynowski.

“It’s getting barbaric. I have more faith in the city planners.

“The way (the territory) designs land, that’s not land planning. We want the area to be left alone. It’s a nice natural oasis, for us and future generations.”

Originally 400 homes were planned for the area, but the government hasn’t provided new numbers for how many lots could be developed.

The city has indicated Takhini North, Arkell and Whistle Bend are higher priorities for lot development.

The 100-metre corridor on either side of the creek needs to be broadened, said Liberal Don Inverarity, Porter Creek South MLA.

Inverarity raised the McIntyre Creek report during Monday’s question period.

“Is it a good compromise?” he said.

“The college isn’t happy and the community association isn’t particularly happy. People say when no one’s happy with things, maybe it’s a good decision.”

A “strong movement” demands the space remain protected for wildlife, he said.

“I’m particularly concerned that the report was never given to the Porter Creek Community Association,” said Inverarity.

“The city of Whitehorse only received a verbal briefing and a map.”

Inverarity received the report in October after repeated requests for the document, which was written in May.

The Yukon College Board of Governors chair only learned of the report after being contacted by Inverarity.

Finding out the report existed was shocking because the college made repeated requests for the report for months, said chair Clarence Timmons.

“We raised this with the minister (of Education) on numerous occasions,” said Timmons.

“I was not aware of the report until Don (Inverarity) showed it to me.”

The board will review and discuss the report at its December 7 meeting.

About 80 hectares have been designated for college land.

“Until the board reviews the report, I won’t go into specifics,” said Timmons. “I don’t know if the land fulfills the college’s requirements.”

This area could be developed quickly because some of the infrastructure is in place, which is why the construction industry is interested, said Inverarity.

“There’s competing interest in the area. There’s no serviced lots available (in Whitehorse) and the industry is desperate.”

Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources Archie Lang said the government is waiting for the city to finalize plans.

“If the official city plan moves forward, there will be opportunities for them to expand in that area with some residential lots,” Lang said during question period.

“It’s their decision.”

Whatever happens with the land, there’s no problem with taking development slow, said Inverarity.

“We got the land, we can do it right the first time.”