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Building bonuses bug council

With the summer building season already in full swing, solutions to Whitehorse’s lot shortage are still few and far between.

With the summer building season already in full swing, solutions to Whitehorse’s lot shortage are still few and far between.

To get some new lots onto the market as soon as possible, the city held a special council meeting last week to fast-track the rezoning of the future Arkell and Stan McCowan subdivisions.

However, the meeting was anything but fast as council debated with the city-planning department and introduced a number of new amendments.

The main point of contention was a batch of incentive clauses intended to reward those who choose to build green.

“It’s not something that everybody has to do but something people could take advantage of,” said city planner Zoe Morrison.

“We’re trying to provide something in return for developers who do lean toward more sustainable buildings.”

The problem is the incentive clauses weren’t discussed at all during the public input sessions.

The consultations decided on yard setbacks and building heights, said Councillor Doug Graham.

“Now we’re doing something different.”

To encourage a higher building standard, developers can use building bonus options to receive 10 per cent variances in yard setbacks, allowable building height or lot coverage.

The incentives reward developments that are Yukon Housing GreenHome certified.

Bonuses are also awarded for use of rain and grey water for landscape irrigation, energy reduction features such as energy efficient appliances or solar hot-water heating systems, and geothermal technology.

The variance will be non-cumulative, so incorporating three options into a development will not lead to a 30 per cent increase in allowable building height, council was told.

However, the developer could increase the building height, yard setback and lot coverage by 10 per cent each.

These bonuses would be fine if they were discussed during the public consultation meetings, said Graham.

“We didn’t give people a true picture of what was intended,” he said.

“If we’re going to do something let’s tell people about it up front — don’t add it later and don’t change the ground rules.”

While those who attended the meetings did not ask for building incentives, they did ask for more sustainable development, said Morrison.

“When we came up with the zoning, we were trying our best to reflect what we heard in the meetings,” she said.

“It’s not something we purposely hid from people, because we didn’t know what they wanted to see there yet.”

The bonuses are like blackmailing people to build green, said Councillor Dave Austin.

“Keep in mind that whatever we approve here tonight, rest assured that anybody else who’s got a development coming is going to want the same thing,” he added.

Councillor Florence Roberts agreed, saying that she would like to see the green options as the rule rather than a bonus.

After a lengthy 45-minute discussion, the zoning bylaw was passed with a number of amendments.

Council voted to leave the incentives for single-family homes, and eliminate the option for larger multifamily developments in order to calm fears that large developers may take advantage of the bonuses.

“I think we should be careful and not just say developers,” said Councillor Jan Stick.

 “It could be private people saying this is my house and I want it green and these are all the things I’m going to do.”