Big changes on the horizon for Hillcrest

City councillors and Whitehorse residents gathered at the Yukon Transportation Museum Tuesday night to review plans for the Hillcrest neighbourhood.

City councillors and Whitehorse residents gathered at the Yukon Transportation Museum Tuesday night to review plans for the Hillcrest neighbourhood.

Poster boards displayed information about a proposal to clean up the tank farm, the neighbourhood’s local improvement project and upcoming neighbourhood plan.

The information about the tank farm was more about the procedures involved in the project than it was about specific details, said Ben Campbell with the city’s planning department.

The city wanted to clarify what the municipality’s role in the project is, he said.

Earlier this year, Mike Mickey and Pramjit Sidhu put forward a plan to clean up the tank farm and build a housing development on the 57-hectare parcel of land between Valleyview and Hillcrest. 

For decades the site was used to store diesel and heating oil, which leached into the soil.

Area residents had concerns about the noise, pollution and odours that could be caused by a cleanup. The Hillcrest Community Association wanted the city to wait until environmental assessments were finished before it made any amendments to the Official Community Plan.

The city councillors originally voted to wait.

Sidhu complained that putting off the OCP amendment would in effect delay the project for an entire year.

In an unusual move, outgoing mayor Bev Buckway tabled a motion for council to reconsider its decision.

In the end, council reversed its original decision and voted to amend the OCP, after being assured that they weren’t giving tacit approval to the project.

The motion still has to pass third reading. It will come back before the new city council on Dec. 10.

If the OCP amendment is approved, the project has to go through an environmental assessment and then the city can consider a rezoning application.

Before the city can accept any proposal to clean up the tank farm, the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board has to finish its assessment and the territory has to issue a decision document, said Campbell.

Tuesday’s meeting was also a chance for new city councillors to gather more information.

Coun. John Streicker said building housing close to downtown is important. He would approve looking at the OCP, but he wants to see what will happen in the environmental assessment process, he said.

“The tank farm is attractive because it’s right in the heart of town,” he said.

Coun. Mike Gladish also approves cleanup at the site. It’s in the city’s best interests to encourage and support the idea, he said. But he also said it’s hard to tell what will happen until the process starts. While the city can regulate noise at the site, it’s harder to control dust.

The Hillcrest Community Association wants to make sure the project goes through all the proper environmental assessments before the city makes final zoning decisions to allow quarrying to start, said association president Jean-Paul Molgat.

The association is not opposed to the project, it just wants more clarity about how long the project will take and what the impacts will be, he said.

“It’s the juxtaposition of a residential neighbourhood immediately adjacent to a quarry that has people concerned about things like noise levels, dust, operations, visual issues and esthetics,” he said. Some are also concerned about how the project will affect residents who won’t be able to use the trail around the tank farm while the cleanup is happening.

The city is also starting a public consultation process to produce a formal neighbourhood plan for Hillcrest. The neighbourhood association requested a plan to be made after the Dhillon family asked to have their property’s zoning changed. They want to tear down their Steelox buildings and replace them with 10-metre-high townhouses.

The city recently awarded $20,000 to make the community plan. A schedule for consultations will be made in February. They are expected to last until June.

The city also presented information about the neighbourhood’s local improvement project. The water pipes in Hillcrest are the originals. The city has been updating water pipes in different neighbourhoods over the past couple years.

“It’s just kind of our turn,” said Molgat.

The project is still in the pre-design phase. More than half of the affected property owners have to vote to approve the changes before work can be done. If the project doesn’t get that approval, the city has to wait a year before bringing the project forward again.

The earliest a vote could happen is next October.

If approved, residents will have to pay for one-third of the surface work done in the front of their properties. They will also have to pay approximately $1,700 for plumbing upgrades to the insides of their houses, and another $450 for sewer service replacements. That replacement is not required, but is recommended.

The money can be paid all at once, or over a 15-year period.

Construction could begin as early as 2015. It will be phased over three to four years. Properties on Sunset Drive North will not be affected.

People who want to update their plumbing before the project begins should consult with the city first to make sure their projects won’t conflict with the city’s plans.

Betty Irwin was the only city councillor not at the session. Mayor Dan Curtis was also absent.

Contact Meagan Gillmore at