Austin likes some development more than others

Coun. Dave Austin doesn't want a gravel quarry in his neighbourhood.

Coun. Dave Austin doesn’t want a gravel quarry in his neighbourhood.

Monday, Austin wrote the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board laying out the problems he has with a quarry application in his Crestview neighbourhood.

“I’m very much opposed to it, both from a city council standpoint and from a resident standpoint,” said the former manager of the Yukon Chamber of Mines. “It’s too close to the subdivision and it’s really not necessary.”

It would be easy to approve if it weren’t in an “ecologically significant wildlife area,” he added.

“I have personal knowledge of black bear and moose in this area.”

Cee & Cee Gravel wants to assess the viability of developing a quarry 300 metres from the subdivision.

“The project will place undue stress on the community of Crestview and its residents,” wrote Austin.

There are already plans in the works to develop a quarry a kilometre away, the site is in an environmentally sensitive area and prohibited by the city’s Official Community Plan, said Austin in his letter.

But his neighbours are stressed about a different development proposal – a greenspace-destroying housing development that Austin supports.

At Monday’s city council meeting, more than 50 people attended a public hearing about proposed housing lots on greenspace in Crestview and Porter Creek.

“It’s short sighted,” said Margaret Donnelly, secretary for the Crestview Community Association, one of 12 people who expressed the communities’ concerns.

“We need to plan not just for today, but for our future.”

The ad hoc rezoning of greenspace – a luxury homeowners payed a premium to be near – would set a dangerous precedent, she said.

“Every zone in the city is at risk to be developed,” said Donnelly. “There is no protection if it can be changed at any time.

“Environmental protection will just mean it’s waiting to be developed.”

If the city really needs to free up land for housing, there is an old campground nearby that would be perfect, she said.

The housing lots are a stopgap measure to abate the current shortage, and a mistake, said resident Michael Jansen.

Putting housing ahead of greenspace could set a trend in the city, he added, echoing Donnelly’s concern.

“The infilling of greenspace will be your legacy,” Jansen told council, to applause from the gallery.

In a survey to gauge public support for the infill project, most residents opposed the plan, said resident Cam Koss.

Though it wasn’t an option on the survey, 60 per cent of respondents wrote “no infill” on the form, he said.

“They weren’t going to fall into the trap,” said Koss.

The city also received 27 written submissions expressing concern about the proposed development.

Some echo Austin’s written opposition to the gravel quarry.

It’s unfair to compare the two developments, said Austin.

“We’re talking an industrial quarry as opposed to four or five houses on the street that are going to add some new neighbours,” he said.

The fear that some of the homeowners have about the infill degrading their property values is unfounded, said Austin.

“If anything, they’ll increase,” he said. “Anyone who is going to build up there is going to build a decent home.

“It’s going to add to the real estate value on the street, not take away from it.”

This development plan won’t solve the city’s shortage of rental units, but infill is necessary for Whitehorse’s continued growth, said Austin.

“We just can’t keep expanding outwards,” he said. “The bottom line is that my house is sitting on a piece of ground that was somebody else’s greenspace, and I think everyone else is in the same boat.”

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