I, along with dozens of other curious and concerned city residents, attended the public meeting YESAB hosted on the proposed Whistle Bend subdivision earlier this month.
Planned for the so-called Porter Creek Bench, this largely residential development was originally billed to be cutting edge, employing a district-heating system driven by geoexchange technology.
It was going to be Ã and here’s the operative word Ã sustainable.
“This is an exciting new approach for the city,” Mayor Bev Buckway said when she announced the receipt of a $120,000 grant from the Federal Green Municipal Fund to study the feasibility of geoexchange. “Using geoexchange technology follows the sustainable vision set out in the planning process for Whistle Bend.”
Well, you can imagine my dismay and shock when the city planners told us there will not be any geothermal district heating in the first and second phases, which will include some 295 lots.
Every one of those 295 dwellings will have its own space-heating device, likely a conventional propane or oil furnace, just like all those existing houses in the city’s established subdivisions.
Nothing particularly sustainable there.
Second, as the entire development is projected to have about 1,000 lots when the third and fourth phases are completed, the planners are projecting the need for a third access road.
This road will directly connect the development with the Alaska Highway, via the McIntyre Creek corridor, despite the fact many residents have expressed a strong desire to see that area’s considerable ecological and recreational potential remain undisturbed.
Nothing particularly sustainable there either.
But the planners don’t want the YESAB people thinking about that road just yet, saying that’s premature, even though most of the infrastructure for a 1,000-lot development will be put in place long before those remaining 700 lots are put up for sale.
The planners explained this development will still be sustainable because every house will be a five-minute walk from a bus stop and the density will be greater than in any of the city’s existing subdivisions.
Well, I have news for the planners: slums also have high densities and there’s nothing particularly sustainable about them.
And because people are a mere five-minute walk from a bus stop does not necessarily mean they will take the bus, especially if the service is lousy, as has been the case to date, regrettably.
Again, I question the sustainability of Whistle Bend.
I could be wrong, but I think the people of Whitehorse want to see actual sustainable development on (in?) the ground and this terrific idea should not just get lip service at the early stages of planning to get public buy-in and then dropped at the first available opportunity.
This is misleading at best and dishonest at worst.
The planners told us the projected $18-million cost of building a district geoexchange heating system will require additional lobbying of the federal and territorial governments for funding, and this will take time.
And time is something they don’t have as they seem to be under a lot of pressure from their political masters (as well as the local real estate association) to deliver lots of lots, and the sooner the better because the city is seeing a growth spurt.
I could be wrong but I think people looking for city lots would be willing to pay additional money if they knew they would be free from the usury of the oil companies and able to heat their homes using a real sustainable source right beneath their feet.
I strongly urge our municipal politicians and officials to take another look at using geoexchange as a district-heating source in the early stages of the Whistle Bend development.
Not only would this set a good example for the rest of the country, but it would result in significantly less air pollution in a part of our city that will be subject to thermal inversions during the winters.
The word “sustainable” has been used too casually lately and just because you call something “sustainable” does not make it so.