Zoning is now in place for an eight-unit housing complex to be built at 1308 Centennial St. in Porter Creek.
Whitehorse city council passed the final two readings of the bylaw for the rezoning at its Feb. 8 meeting in a 5-2 vote. Councillors Samson Hartland and Dan Boyd voted against the final two readings of the bylaw that saw the property move from a Residential Single Detached zoning designation to Residential Multiple Housing (modified).
Hartland highlighted concerns for the neighbourhood that he had also voiced during the rezoning of 1306 Centennial St. in 2020 to a multi-housing zone. He argued the overall changes to the area that have seen a number of multi-residential developments being built in recent years could put a strain on city infrastructure and services.
As he has stated before, Hartland said he would like to see a comprehensive neighbourhood plan for the area before there’s further development.
Boyd also stated his concerns around spot zoning and the overall impact the zoning changes could have on city infrastructure.
While he acknowledged the city’s overall goal to allow for greater density, he said he doesn’t agree with going about it through spot zoning.
He also responded to comments from Coun. Steve Roddick who noted that while there remain issues to deal with such as parking, those matters can be dealt with through other tools outside of the zoning.
Boyd argued those tools should be in place ahead of the zoning.
Roddick, however, pointed to the need for more housing as the city’s population continues to grow and said that type of area is ideal for greater density given the access to transit, a nearby store and school as well as the lot size.
“These are large lots,” he said.
He voiced his own concerns over lighting and parking but pointed to bylaws and regulations — such as a provision for on-street residential parking permits — that could be used to address those matters.
“We do have many options,” he said.
Coun. Laura Cabott also voiced her support for the zoning change, describing a lack of housing as the “number one” issue the city is dealing with.
“This is one way the city can address that,” she said, also pointing out the area has been identified for greater density in the Official Community Plan with good reason due to the accessibility to transit, a store and school.
Pointing to the continued development of the Whistle Bend neighbourhood, Cabott said as housing needs to continue to be built there, it’s also important to have other options available elsewhere in Whitehorse.
She pointed out that there were 800 applicants vying for 250 residential lots in the last Whistle Bend land lottery with all of the lots there “scooped up.”
Council’s vote came following a public hearing on the rezoning in January.
The city received two submissions for the hearing, which brought forward concerns over the building height that would allow for up to 13 metres (though the project is planned to be 11 m), density, parking, light pollution and put forward arguments the multi-residential zone would not be consistent with the neighbourhood’s character.
In a public hearing report presented to council Feb. 1, city planner Sidharth Agarwal pointed out the property is next door to another 13 m development and across the street from properties zoned for buildings that could be up to 17.5 m.
He also noted the requirement for a three-metre vegetative barrier to the rear of the property that would protect the privacy of those on Elm Street.
Requirements for parking would provide one parking space for each unit and at least one spot for guests, though three guest parking spaces are planned.
On the issue of lighting, it was pointed out that no direct lighting can point to neighbouring properties.
As Agarwal stated in his report to council: “It is important to recognize that lighting is a critical component of Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED). The zoning bylaw encourages proper lighting and a sense of safety to residents and pedestrians and discourages undesirable activities. Lighting is also an important component of winter city design to encourage vibrancy during dark winters and add visual interests.
“Acknowledging resident concerns, the city can work with the applicant on landscaping and lighting placement during the development stage to mitigate potential impacts on neighbouring properties as guided by the zoning bylaw.”
It went on to address arguments that the proposed zoning isn’t consistent with the character of the neighbourhood.
Agarwal’s report also cited the Official Community Plan in designating much of Centennial Street as Mixed Use - Residential/Commercial, “recognizing it as a corridor for densification”.
“The justification for densification on Centennial Street is that it runs along a transit route to downtown, is a major thoroughfare with access to the Alaska Highway, is identified as an on-street bicycle route in the city commuter cycling map, and is close to amenities such as schools, parks, trails and a grocery store,” the report read.
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