letter to the editor331

Support for the greenspace bylaw A vivid example of why it has become necessary to legislate protection of greenspace in the city is the proposal…

Support for the

greenspace bylaw

A vivid example of why it has become necessary to legislate protection of greenspace in the city is the proposal to move a concrete plant from its current location at Ear Lake to McLean Lake, and the location of zoning for gravel quarries on three sides of McLean Lake.

The official community plan now claims that Ear Lake is for recreational use. As we know, industrial development at Ear Lake has been the subject of criticism.

It’s a riddle that we have long puzzled over: that an intact lake environment will become the new home for industrial development because the value of the one that has already been disturbed, Ear Lake, was not recognized when the gravel leases were granted there.

Responsible planning would identify the value of McLean Lake as significant to the city as an amenity to existing and proposed residential neighbourhoods, rather than support its fragmentation and disturbance.

McLean Lake’s proximity to the city and its habitat qualities were recognized as assets during the post-war development of Whitehorse; and so the Yukon government protected the lake by creating the McLean Lake Game Sanctuary.

This revealed that residents of 1950s Whitehorse held a conservationist concern similar to the concerns of today’s residents; and yet we have even more limited legislative tools available to protect our natural spaces for the benefit of the public.

More recently, the habitat mapping study of 2000, Defining ecologically based significant wildlife areas for Whitehorse, noted the area as environmentally sensitive.

The draft watershed management plan cautioned that the proposed designations allowing gravel extraction so close to McLean Lake should be reconsidered.

If a comprehensive plan assessed lands within the city not just for their development potential, but for their existing and potential value related to residential densification and environmental sustainability, as the official community plan claims, McLean Lake would score very high for its habitat values, cultural heritage and aesthetic qualities, especially given its location near existing and proposed residential developments.

Not once have the McLean Lake values related to habitat, culture and heritage, been addressed by the city.

Not once has consideration been given to how protecting McLean Lake fits into a land-use plan that promotes residential densification and the establishment of thousands of residential lots near the lake.

Essentially, McLean Lake has only been considered within the context of how to establish a concrete batch plant near it.

The situation looks a lot like the discussion about Ear Lake 20-odd years ago, before the city had its epiphany.

The city has countered criticisms of the proposed industrial development at McLean Lake from Kwanlin Dun First Nation, and residents of Hillcrest, Granger, Arkell, Copper Ridge, Lobird, and McLean Lake with opinions and facts that support the industrialization of the lake.

It’s been implied that this is just a matter of spot zoning, to deflect discussion from the repercussions for long-term land-use planning that are suggested by this proposed relocation of the concrete plant.

Little attention has been given by the general public or the media to the city’s plans for locating industrial development.

It’s not known how the initial decisions to locate industrial designations were made in the official community plan process, and it has so far escaped public notice that the city has set some standards for industrial-residential mixed land use that are bound to come as a surprise to residents in the future.

Residents spend a great deal of time and energy participating in public consultation exercises.

Critiques are frequently characterized as NIMBY-esque, though history shows that planners have often been misguided.

Ironically, editorial comments in the media sometimes seem to be directed toward undermining residents’ involvement in the public consultation process.

It’s safe to say that this all contributes to less-than-enjoyable experiences in public forums.

But communities come together over our shared greenspaces, whether it’s protecting a lake, or developing a neighbourhood park.

Planning together how a town or city should care for its environment is a crucial part of building a community; a municipality ignores this fundamental building block to its own detriment.

McLean Lake Residents Association supports the greenspace bylaw as a much-needed tool for land use planning that better integrates everyone’s interests in the evolution of the city.

It will spare future residents from difficulties we have encountered, make land-use plans more accountable and support the collective desire of citizens to have the best of our environment preserved within city boundaries.

McLean Lake Residents Association

Whitehorse

City mangles

democratic process

When I went door-to-door with the Greenspace Petition, I spoke personally with each resident and know, for a fact, that every person who signed the petition understood what the questions were and their intent.

At least 90 per cent of all the houses we went to signed the petition. Once we had received enough signatures to fulfill the requirements of the Municipal Act, the city changed the wording of the questions on the petition for the bylaw and intentionally complicated them.

We attended several meetings with city council and administration to try to get them to either use the original wording of the petition in the bylaw, or at least use wording that reflected the intent of the petition, which is to require the city to provide proper greenspace planning for residential developments.

They told us we could “go to court” if we didn’t like it.

The city’s final version of the bylaw is intentionally confusing so that residents will be too nervous to vote Yes on the referendum.

The fact that some city councillors are now trying to make those who signed the petition feel stupid and embarrassed is unethical and, frankly, unbelievable!

The implication is that Whitehorse residents aren’t capable of reading or determining what is really good for them. 

What arrogance!

At no point did we ever try to make anyone feel bad if they chose to not sign the petition.

At Archie Lang’s constituency meeting in Porter Creek a short time ago, the entire meeting was about protecting greenspace.

All the residents who attended tried to make Lang and Fentie understand how important greenspace is to the future of Whitehorse and to our quality of life.

No one is advocating stopping development. This bylaw is about ensuring that proper greenspace planning is a part of all development.

See the city’s scare mongering and bullying tactics for what they really are and vote YES on the referendum

Jocelyn Laveck

Whitehorse