Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)

City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week.

Lot rezoned

Pelly Construction can move forward with its plans to consolidate operations to its Whitehorse Copper lot after Whitehorse city council passed second and third reading of a rezoning bylaw Aug. 10.

The rezoning will see the 4.5-hectare lot rezoned from Heavy Industrial to Service Industrial, thus allowing Pelly Construction to move operations to the site with plans to build a 9,204-square-foot, three-storey building that would be home to 13 office spaces used by 18 employees. Also planned for the property is the construction of a shop with a wash bay that would be used by four employees.

The vote by council came after a public hearing where support was largely expressed for the change.

Development incentives approved

Three local developers are set to receive the city’s development incentive after Whitehorse city council voted 6-1 at its Aug. 10 meeting in favour of approving the incentive agreement for each.

Coun. Samson Hartland was the only member to vote against the incentive for each, citing concerns over lost revenue and questioning whether developments would not otherwise move forward without the program.

The incentives provide grants for a portion of or all the development cost charges associated with the projects. Those building four or more rental or supportive housing units may also be eligible for an annual tax grant for up to 10 years based on improvements to the property. Those receiving the grants would get up to a maximum of $500,000 over the 10 years.

While Hartland highlighted his concerns over the incentive, other members of council pointed out the policy is already in place and it wouldn’t be appropriate to withhold it from those who meet the criteria. It was also argued this will help get rental units to the market.

In this case, the three new rental developments will bring a total of 24 units to the city.

The largest is at 51 Keewenaw Drive in Copper Ridge for a 12-unit development planned as the second phase of housing there with the others being an eight-unit development at 1306 Centennial Street and a four-unit development at 24 Wann Road.

Under each agreement, the developer would be granted a reduction in development cost charges and the 10-year property tax grant.

“The development agreement lists the maximum value of $500,000, the timeline for the tax grant payments, and specifies that the building must be operated as rental housing for a minimum of 10 years or else the proponent will be required to repay the city for all grants disbursed,” acting planning manager Greg Stone stated in an earlier report to council. “Other conditions that the developer/property owner must meet to remain eligible for the grants are also specified.”

The agreements also outline that the units cannot be used as short-term rentals, such as overnight stays that can be booked on sites like Airbnb.

Contract award proposed for landfill work

A contract worth more than $373,000 for work at the City of Whitehorse landfill will go to Cobalt Construction.

Whitehorse city council voted to award the contract at its Aug. 10 meeting.

Cobalt had the lowest of three compliant bids submitted for the work that will include excavation, installation of a new culvert and improvements to the roadway in the development of a new cell for waste.

Setting local content

As City of Whitehorse staff get set to release a Request for Proposals for its upcoming city-wide transportation study, Whitehorse city council set a weight of 15 points available for local content in the evaluation of proposals submitted.

Council approved the weighting at its meeting Aug. 10. It comes after a resolution was passed in June that allows it, until March 31, 2021, to set a weighting for local content of up to 20 points as part of its efforts to support local contractors that may be impacted by COVID-19.

“Engineering Service’s proposal that the weighting for local content be set at 15 points is based on the following rationale: this study is a large undertaking with the objective to find solutions to complex transportation engineering problems, some of which require strategic planning for future conditions to allow the city to grow,” city engineering manager Taylor Eshpeter stated in an earlier report to council.

The work will require specialized expertise and it’s important the consultant has experience in transpiration engineering.

“Considering this, a value-driven approach is proposed to maximize the weighting criteria for the technical points of the evaluation, including factors such as the project team, relevant experience and proposed methodology/approach,” Eshpeter said.

A weighting on the higher end of the range at 15 points was “to reflect the desire to reward partnerships with local firms and firms who have a local office, and still allow for points to be allocated to technical points to ensure best value and best results.”

New recreation grant policy adopted

A new City of Whitehorse recreation grant policy has been adopted, setting funding limits and altering funding categories with applications assessed through an evaluation.

Whitehorse city council adopted the policy at its Aug. 10 meeting.

Under the policy, there are four categories for funding including sustainable projects and initiatives with a funding limit of $7,000 for projects; new projects and initiatives with a funding limit of $7,000 as well; training and leadership development with a funding limit of $2,500; and operational support with a limit of $5,000.

The percentage of how much would be allocated to each category is set at 50 per cent for sustainable projects, 20 per cent for each new projects/initiatives as well as operational support, and 10 per cent for training and leadership.

The policy also outlines a scoring system to be used in evaluating applications that will look at how well the application aligns with the city’s parks and recreation master plan; the contribution the applicant is making to the project; an accountability statement detailing the project and financial statements/records for it; whether the project addresses any gaps in recreational opportunities; and any previous use of recreation grant funding.

Another $250,000 could be added to staircase project

The City of Whitehorse has added another $250,000 to the budget to rebuild the Puckett’s Gulch staircase that runs from the end of Black Street up the clay cliffs.

At Whitehorse city council’s Aug. 10 meeting, members voted that $250,000 be added to the budget and the nearly $600,000 contract for the work be awarded to Wildstone Construction Group.

Wildstone had the lowest of two bids on the work with the other coming from Ketza Construction.

“The lowest price submitted was approximately 50 per cent higher than estimated,” city engineering manager Taylor Eshpeter stated in an earlier report to council. “This is very specialized work that is challenging to estimate due to uncertainty in the market from a lack of historical pricing on similar work and the challenging site conditions along the escarpment.”

Eshpeter noted the timing for construction — late fall and early winter — likely also impacted pricing, “but there was no delay in design and delaying construction to next year is not advisable.”

If the work isn’t done, there’s a risk the stairs may need to be closed if erosion and glaciation continue to impact the staircase.

The additional funding will come from reserves until anticipated gas tax funding for the project comes through.

Lease signed

The Tennis Yukon Association will have a new lease in place with the City of Whitehorse for the tennis courts at the Mount McIntyre Recreation Centre.

Whitehorse city council passed third reading for the new agreement at its Aug. 10 meeting.

The most recent lease Tennis Yukon had for the 2,931-square-metre court was not set to expire until 2021, but the tennis association is getting set to resurface the courts next year. To secure funding for the work, the association had to show tenure beyond the current lease expiry date.

The new lease will be in place from Sept. 1, 2020 to Aug. 31, 2030 at a rate of $10 per year.

Grants approved

More than $173,000 will be doled out to 20 community groups after Whitehorse city council passed the final two readings of the bylaw governing the 2020 municipal charges and community service grants at its Aug. 10 meeting.

The city provides the grants each year to assist organizations with property taxes and municipal charges.

The grants for 2020 range anywhere from $485.31 for the Downtown Urban Gardens Society to $42,211 for the MacBride Museum Society.

In a submission to council read into the record ahead of the vote on the grants, officials with MacBride took issue with the grant, arguing the museum should be exempt from taxes and noting in past years until 2019 it had received a grant amount equal to its tax bill.

The grant policy had changed in 2015 to cap the grant at a maximum of $50,000, an amount the museum’s tax bill exceeded following an expansion to the facility. In its submission, MacBride officials noted the city had supported the expansion.

MacBride was granted an extension after the grant policy was implemented, but ultimately that came to an end.

MacBride highlighted its role in the city’s culture and in preserving the territory’s history, also pointing out that tax abatements are common for museums in other jurisdictions.

During council discussion, it was noted the Yukon government, which pays taxes on the facilities, owns other museums in the city and pays taxes on those.

While the territory had proposed it purchase the museum, with the museum board to continue operating the facility, that proposal was rejected by the museum in 2019. Mayor Dan Curtis indicated there does seem to be discussions between the museum and territory underway though there are no details about those talks.

Property taxes are due Sept. 2.

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

Whitehorse city council