Whitehorse citizens should pay close attention to the Official Community Plan exercise.
It may seem of little import, but the city’s behaviour suggests otherwise.
It has been monkeying with this document a lot. And there have been so many shifty moves in the process that one begins to wonder what’s afoot.
You get the idea the city does have a plan, and it won’t broker any public interference in its execution.
You might remember the weasel-word controversy, which saw the city trying to build wriggle room into the document by replacing all instances of “shall,” which bound the city to a particular action, to “may,” which didn’t.
In the end, 12 clauses were changed.
Some are seemingly innocuous. Some aren’t.
For example, instead of forcing the city to ensure good air quality through modern pollution control technology and by encouraging emission management strategies, the city may do that. That’s a pretty big shift. Especially if you’ve lived here long enough to remember the thick-as-cheese air in Riverdale when wood stoves were blazing.
Or, if an industrial-service zoning designation is approved next to a residential designation, a 200-metre-wide vegetated buffer may be provided. Originally, the city was forced to ensure such a buffer was maintained.
That’s a pretty big change if you own a house next to an area that has just been zoned industrial. You may get some trees or shrubs to hide the nasties. Or you might not.
Also, the plan once said the city shall, when building country-residential lots, test soils to determine whether they are adequate for sewage percolation and to identify potential conflicts with groundwater. That sounds like a responsible thing to do when you’re developing a residential area.
Today, the city is no longer obligated to do that. It may do that, or it may not.
How does that protect people who buy city lots? Or the environment? Is it responsible?
Those are legitimate questions.
The fact is that now the city may do the work, if someone decides it’s necessary. Or it may not.
The wording in the Official Community Plan guarantees you can’t be certain. So you’d better ask.
And if they didn’t test the soil before selling that lot, nothing you can do about it. Buyer beware.
Does that approach represent good planning? The people drafting the Official Community Plan seem to think so.
What do you think?
You have until the first week of March to review the document and let the city know. (Richard Mostyn)