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Hillcrest badly needs urban renewal

Hillcrest badly needs urban renewal This letter is in response to Mr. Jim Gilpin's letter of Friday, Sept. 7, 2012 entitled Hillcrest Under Threat, which cited numerous concerns about my proposed sustainable townhouse development within the Steelox secti

This letter is in response to Mr. Jim Gilpin’s letter of Friday, Sept. 7, 2012 entitled Hillcrest Under Threat, which cited numerous concerns about my proposed sustainable townhouse development within the Steelox section of Hillcrest.

The crux of Mr. Gilpin’s argument rested on his perception that my proposal would change the character of Hillcrest.

My team worked to design a proposal with consideration to the architecture of the houses on Chalet and Kluane crescents. Our intention is to create homes that fit the character of the neighbourhood, not duplicate Steeloxes.

Town homes already exist in Hillcrest on Roundel Road. and Hillcrest Drive. Transitioning the neighbourhood from low-income renters to owners that want to live in Hillcrest for the long-term would strengthen the sense of community.

Mr. Gilpin is putting too much stock in the buildings themselves. A community’s strength does not come from timber and cement; it comes from the residents’ sense of belonging and pride in their communities. Making room for couples and families in Hillcrest should be welcomed to allow Hillcrest to thrive.

Mr. Gilpin is obviously emotionally attached to the Steeloxes - referring to them like architectural masterpieces, when they are clearly metal-clad rectangular boxes. The Royal Canadian Air Force had the Steelox housing kits shipped from the U.S., not because they wanted beautiful and energy efficient homes, but because a quick and cheap solution was needed for housing military staff.

After the initial demand, the RCAF opted for the sturdier and more esthetically pleasing home styles seen in other parts of Hillcrest. Perhaps they knew something about the Steeloxes’ energy consumption and longevity that were unattractive and did not warrant further procurement.

Infrastructure in Hillcrest badly needs to be replaced, but improvements cost money. Higher-density housing would result in more tax revenue, which will help fund upgrades. Local improvement fees could be spread among more residents, resulting in lower overall fees, which could expedite badly needed improvements.

We have a constant struggle in this town. People expect large open lots with unencumbered views, but still expect top-notch municipal services and want it all at lower-than-average tax rates, then harp when the city’s balance sheets show red. The concept of a city with sparse density having a high level of service at a low tax rate is a concept that is fundamentally at odds with the principle of a sustainable and self-sufficient municipality.

Change can be scary; however, sometimes change is necessary in the interest of rejuvenation and sustainability. The process is working well in Takhini North and it can work in Hillcrest.

Yet sustainable housing proposals are consistently opposed. People verbally champion sustainable development, but do not want it in their backyards. The official community plan has a bold vision that recognized that Whitehorse was on the unsustainable path of urban sprawl. We need to stop preaching sustainability, and start practising it! I urge city council to approve Bylaw 2012-37.

Kirn Dhillon