City of Whitehorse staff received 462 responses in a survey for the proposed infill plan. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News)

Whitehorse pares down infill proposal, eyes next stage

‘You really can’t do much of anything on bedrock’

Whitehorse city staff have recommended council move ahead with the next phase of public consultation for a proposed infill plan.

The results from the initial survey and consultation are in. Staff received 462 survey responses from eight areas of the city, plus 60 emails on the subject, planning and sustainability manager Mike Ellis told city council at the July 31 standing committee meeting.

Concerns included the view that there was too little consultation with residents, concerns over the potential impact on the quality of life for existing residents and worries about green space and the effects of increased density, he said. Sixty per cent of respondents expressed concern about the viability of wells and septic systems in the area and impacts to wildlife and trail systems.

If the developments were approved, he said, residents stated they want existing trails maintained and for building regulation to be the same as other neighbourhoods. They also want country residential lot sizes to be in line with what well and septic systems can support.

The complete results of the survey are available online.

“As I predicted, nothing drives people crazier than infill…. It’s a good process but I don’t think people understand it,” said Coun. Rob Fendrick.

Ellis said three of the possible 13 infill lots were eliminated from the list as a result of consultations and physical assessments of the sites.

Two of the three eliminated lots were in Whitehorse Copper, said Kinden Kosick, project manager and planner for the city, in an interview. One was eliminated because positioning and drainage issues created the potential for permafrost, he said, and the other because it was found to be sitting on bedrock, making installing proper septic systems impossible.

“You can’t really put a septic system in bedrock,” he said. “You really can’t do much of anything on bedrock.”

The third eliminated site was in Mary Lake and was removed from possible development because of drainage and poor access issues, he said.

“So every other lot… is determined to be fine?” asked Coun. Roslyn Woodcock.

“No… (staff) would like to see more testing done,” said Ellis.

“We don’t see any technical reasons right now why (the remaining sites) can’t be developed,” Kosick said. He added city staff would conduct more soil testing to ensure sites can support septic drainage systems, but that his current results suggest they will.

One of the criteria for site selection was the “significance” of the green space to be turned over to development. Coun. Rob Fendrick questioned what the definition of “significant” was.

This was a difficult question to answer, said Ellis, but noted that all the existing residences still had access to “alternative” green spaces.

“Certainly, we don’t want to state any of these areas are not important green space… they are all are important to local residents,” Ellis said. “There isn’t an intent there to signify this isn’t significant green space to people…. It’s simply to say that in the opinion of staff, there is still significant green space nearby.”

The next step in this process is to release a more detailed report about what kind of housing could be built and giving the public time to “really chew on” the proposals, Kosik said.

In the survey, Hidden Valley, Cowley Creek and Mary Lake residents said they would favour single family developments with suites. Sandpiper Drive and Magpie Road surveyed residents said they would prefer single resident homes without suites. Wann Road and Wilson Drive residents didn’t strongly prefer either option. Wilson Drive and Sandpiper Drive were the areas most open to having duplexes and townhouses.

Council will vote at the August 7 regular council meeting on whether to move to the next step.

Contact Lori Garrison at lori.garrison@yukon-news.com