The road into Whitehorse’s tank farm, a former White Pass fuel storage area, near the Valleyview neighbourhood photographed in 2012. Residents are letting the city know their thoughts on a proposed Official Community Plan amendment that would change the designation of a 7.3-hectare piece of land inside the former tank farm site to allow for commercial/industrial use. (Yukon News file)

Arguments made for and against OCP change

Nearly 500 sign petition in favour

Residents are once again letting the city know their thoughts on a proposed Official Community Plan (OCP) amendment that would change the designation of a 7.3-hectare piece of land near Wasson Place inside the former tank farm site to allow for commercial/industrial use.

A public hearing on the proposed change was held with director of development services Valerie Braga at Whitehorse city council’s Aug. 10 meeting. She noted more than two dozen submissions on the change had come in.

Of those submissions, 11 expressed support for the change — including one petition with 500 signatures supporting the plans — while 11 were opposed and two highlighted concerns.

This marks the second public hearing on the matter after a number of changes were made to the proposal. The changes would see council have more control over the tank farm area in establishing the site as a direct control district under the Municipal Act and remove policies around the remediation of the tank farm as that work is now substantially completed.

Section 291 of the Municipal Act states the direct control district may be established if the city “wants to directly control the use and development of land or buildings in the area individually rather than establish rules common to all buildings and land in the area.”

Given the changes that had taken place after the matter was sent back for administration to look at it in June, a second public hearing was scheduled.

Developers of the tank farm have applied for the OCP change, as they argue land is not suitable for residential development due to deep depressions in the ground that make it more suitable for industrial development.

The submissions highlight mixed reaction to the plans.

Included in the arguments favouring the change is the petition with nearly 500 signatures from residents and business owners in support of the OCP change and overall plans for the tank farm.

“This plan would put 13 one-acre parcels up for sale by summer of 2021 but is contingent on approvals from the City of Whitehorse to amend the OCP by summer 2020,” the petition states. “As with land availability throughout Whitehorse, commercial properties are desperately needed in the marketplace.

“Our signatures are our support for this project and the OCP amendment. We are demonstrating to Whitehorse city council and Yukon Government that this private development is supported by and needed in our community.”

It also notes remediation work has been underway for more than 10 years and it is now at the stage where development can begin. Due to the extensive excavation that was done as part of the remediation work, the 7.3-hectare site is now planned to match the land use of areas to the south and east of the site.

“This designation is Commercial Industrial Mixed Use with some restrictions, the same current zoning and land use designation of Wasson Place,” the petition states.

Others in support also stressed the need for more residential and commercial lots in the city with some stating they’re pleased with the proposal to establish it as a direct control district.

“That is somewhat comforting as a Hillcrest neighbour to the tank farm,” wrote Kathryn Secord. “This large track of land has certainly presented many challenges for the owner with both the contamination factors and the height factors close to the airport. I am also looking forward to a potential overall plan for the area as things move along for the owner of the property. So I am in support of the bylaw with this amendment.”

Those arguing against the change maintained the site should be used for residential use as industrial/commercial uses would not fit with the nearby neighbourhoods and would impact residents of those neighbourhoods.

“We remain opposed to changes in the OCP, regarding the Tank Farm. The designation in the OCP must remain residential-urban. We have been residents of Valleyview for more than 24 years and have enjoyed the natural environment and tranquility in the middle of the city,” Tracy and Peter Snell wrote. “We feel that changes to the designation to light industrial will greatly impact this quality of life we have enjoyed for many years.”

Noise and pollution were also cited as a major concern among those opposing the OCP change.

Others highlighted the city’s logo as a wilderness city.

“It may be useful to remind the ‘administration’, from to time to time, of the core values expressed above,” Mary-Dawn Rippell wrote. “Gravel pits generally are not one of the amenities of a modern metropolis. Once again I urge you not to proceed with the zoning amendment and jeopardize our truly unique city’s designation.”

A report on the public hearing will come forward to council in September ahead of second reading. If second reading is approved, ministerial approval will be required before third reading comes forward.

Contact Stephanie Waddell at stephanie.waddell@yukon-news.com

Whitehorse city council

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