I believe the integrity of Hillcrest will be irreparably changed if council approves the rezoning of four lots on Hillcrest Drive to allow the owner to tear down four Steelox duplexes and replace them with a total of 16 townhouse-style homes. This change would occur in the historic Steelox section of Hillcrest and would double the density on these lots.
If council permits rezoning of these four lots, how could similar rezoning applications be refused? A wave of demolition of affordable, accessible, one-storey homes in Hillcrest could ensue. Hillcrest, especially the Steelox area, is under threat.
It seems that the Whitehorse housing crunch is over; the supply is catching up with the demand, with the big exception of the availability of affordable housing. The current proposal for rezoning would actually decrease the amount of affordable rental housing in Hillcrest as the eight families in the four duplexes slated to be torn down would be displaced.
There is no urgency to build new townhouses, and certainly no need to decrease the number of affordable rental units in Whitehorse. Approval of the proposed zoning change would be a step backwards in the housing market and forever change the character of the Hillcrest community.
I believe an overall design for the future of Hillcrest needs to be developed by the community, and agreed to, before any one-off spot zoning changes are permitted.
Over 30 years ago, Hillcrest was threatened by another proposal: extending Hillcrest Drive westwards to be an artery road to a new subdivision being planned in the green space, namely Granger. At that time, Hillcrest residents recognized this rezoning would cause irreparable change to the nature of their neighbourhood. A community association was formed, the community was galvanized, and the proposal was rejected.
I believe the current proposed rezoning along Hillcrest Drive is a threat of similar magnitude. I believe it is the “thin edge of the wedge” of significant change in the character and integrity of Hillcrest. If residents’ concerns were able to have an impact upon community development 30-odd years ago, then hopefully the voices of residents to protect the integrity of their community will be heard again.
Residents today must express their concerns directly to mayor and council. They can write or phone mayor and council by noon on Monday, Sept. 10. Residents can also attend the public hearing scheduled for Monday, September 10 at 7:30 p.m., at the city council meeting, or make a presentation then.
Hopefully, the voices of Hillcrest residents will once again be able to protect the integrity of Hillcrest and block the current rezoning application. Council is scheduled to vote on the proposed bylaw on September 24.