City council approves zoning change for continuing care centre in Whistle Bend

City council has approved a zoning amendment that gives the Yukon government permission to build a continuing care facility in the Whistle Bend subdivision.

City council has approved a zoning amendment that gives the Yukon government permission to build a continuing care facility in the Whistle Bend subdivision.

Council passed second and third reading of the bylaw at Monday’s meeting, following 20 minutes of debate.

Betty Irwin was the only councillor to vote against the amendment, stating there were too many unanswered questions about the project.

“We know the master plan for Whistle Bend didn’t include an institutional facility of this type, so why is this the only suitable site?” she asked earlier in the meeting.

“We’ve been trying to increase densification downtown – has there been any discussion about vacant lots there? On top of all this the president of the Canadian Medical Association has said that home care, not institutional care, is the ideal model.”

In December 2014, the government announced it was building a 300-bed facility in two phases.

The total floor area for the facility, which will have a maximum height of 20 metres, is estimated at 21,900 square metres.

It is expected that construction of the new facility will commence in the spring of 2016, with completion anticipated in spring 2018, according to the government’s website.

Council was voting on whether or not to change the zoning of the land where the facility will be built from future planning to public service.

But it was also considering other, less controversial infrastructure changes in the third development phase of Whistle Bend.

In May 2011, Golder and Morrison Hershfield were hired by the city to complete the planning and engineering for phases three to seven of the subdivision.

Once that work was completed in May 2013, the city hired Inukshuk Planning and Development to complete the detailed engineering phase.

That’s when several infrastructure changes were made, such as the location of phase three, a re-design of Casca Boulevard, and replacing numerous single family and townhouse lots with multiple family lots.

Earlier this month five Whitehorse residents spoke at a public hearing for the project, expressing their concerns for the facility.

One current Whistle Bend resident, Tamara Boiteau, said she probably wouldn’t have bought a home there if she knew a continuing care facility was going to be built nearby.

But the government has maintained the city would participate in the design of the facility, which would be inviting to seniors and not have an institutional feel.

At Monday’s meeting, Coun. Dave Stockdale was swayed by Irwin’s comments and proposed a motion to defer third reading of the bylaw for two weeks.

He said he also needed more time to address unanswered questions.

Mayor Dan Curtis, participating by phone, said he wasn’t against deferring but reminded councillors the city’s responsibility was to vote on the zoning amendment, not the merits of the facility itself.

Stockdale’s motion was eventually defeated.

During debate of the bylaw, Coun. Jocelyn Curteanu stated her biggest concern in the third development phase of Whistle Bend was indeed the continuing care facility.

But she trusts the Yukon government will do its due diligence when it comes to designing the facility and consulting the public, she said.

“I don’t want to stand in the way of our elders not getting services they need in our city,” she said.

Coun. John Streicker echoed Curteanu’s statement.

He said he would have preferred to see several smaller facilities spread around the city, but ultimately that’s the Yukon government’s decision.

“Our choice is whether to zone it,” he said, “and I’m supportive of this because there is a need for more continuing care beds.”

Coun. Stockdale, who eventually voted in favour of the zoning amendment, said the government was acting cynically.

“I’ve no objection to this being built, just the way it’s being put on us,” he said.

“It’s very disrespectful. I just want a bit of respect from senior levels of government when they plan these things.

“I know it’s a long time before the next election, but I know what I’ll be voting.”

Meanwhile, the government has been moving along with the project.

It already issued a request for qualifications to design and build the first phase of the facility. Submissions will be accepted until May 6.

Contact Myles Dolphin at

myles@yukon-news.com

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