A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council at its June 14 meeting.
Speed reduction approved
Be ready to slow down throughout downtown Whitehorse.
At Whitehorse city council’s June 14 meeting, members passed third reading of a bylaw to reduce the speed limit downtown to 40 km/hr from the current 50 km/hr.
The speed limit will come into effect once signs are posted, per an amendment to the bylaw passed by council. There will also be a communications and education campaign around the change.
The change comes after months of consideration following a study detailing the benefits of slower speed limits such as increased survival rates for pedestrians in collisions.
In addition to streets in the main part of downtown, Robert Service Way from Fourth to Second Avenue will also see a speed reduction to 40 km/hr as part of the changes.
During discussion before the vote on third reading, a number of council members stated their support for the slower speed limit, but also emphasized the importance of other measures such as enforcement, traffic signals and street design as ways to improve traffic flow and safety.
Bar and restaurant owners looking to take advantage of the city’s pop-up patio program will get a 50 per cent discount in 2021 on the daily fee charged for taking parking meters out of service.
Whitehorse city council approved the final two readings of the bylaw for the fee reduction just four days after passing first reading at a special council meeting.
The pop-up patio program allowing bars and restaurants to use sidewalk and on-street parking spaces for patios, provided a number of conditions are met, was approved in May.
Those using the parking meter spaces are required to pay a daily $25 bagged meter fee for spaces taken out of commission for the patios.
Coun. Steve Roddick originally proposed looking at a discount for the bagged meter fee, noting the costs associated with the program may be too much for some business owners who would otherwise be interested.
The new cost of bagged meter fees joins increased insurance requirements and the cost to set up more seating.
Roddick pointed out that for the three parking spaces, the cost could be more than $2,000 each month and suggested the 50 per cent reduction in the fee.
While most on council were in favour of the change, Mayor Dan Curtis expressed concerns it would be giving an advantage to business that front onto downtown streets and, potentially, have the further benefit of the discounted fee.
Despite his concerns, Curtis voted in favor of the final two readings at the June 14 meeting.
In an interview following the meeting, he explained that while he continues to have concerns about it, he felt there was some compromise in that it would be limited to one year and that helping a few businesses would provide some benefit.
Community service and municipal charges grants approved
More than $165,000 will be doled out to 23 community groups to go toward property taxes and municipal charges as council approved the 2021 municipal charges and community service grants at its June 14 meeting.
The city provides the grants each year to assist organizations with property taxes and municipal charges.
The 2021 grants will range from $206.81 for Tennis Yukon to $41,850.12 for MacBride Museum.
Grants cover 50 to 100 per cent of property taxes owed for each organizations. There is a cap of $50,000 on city grants to any one organization in a one-year period with no applicants hitting that threshold this year.
Property taxes are due July 2.
Approval in place to replace fire hydrants
Hanson and Hawkins Street will see new fire hydrants in place this year after Whitehorse city council approved, at its June 14, meeting spending $60,000 from the city’s water and sewer reserve for the work.
In an earlier report to council, Taylor Eshpeter, the city’s manager of engineering services, noted plans for new private developments on each of the streets.
“These redevelopment projects are advancing the need for the city to replace on-street hydrants ahead of larger infrastructure reconstruction projects,” he said.
While funding for new hydrants in the city was approved in the capital budget, those plans did not include the new hydrants for Hanson and Hawkins streets, which will be reconfigured, to be online with the city’s water main rather than with private developments as is currently the case.
City eyes up geohazard mitigation
The City of Whitehorse’s Main Street escarpment geohazard mitigation project will expand to encompass the downtown south escarpment.
Whitehorse city council approved the change on June 14.
At council’s June 7 meeting, Taylor Eshpeter, the city’s manager of engineering services, brought forward the recommendation for the project expansion.
As he explained, while the initial project was aimed at mitigation measures near the clay cliffs at Main Street and Seventh Avenue, this year has seen a snowmelt that has produced more runoff than usual and given the higher amount of precipitation in recent years the stability of the escarpment has been impacted.
“Within the last two weeks, active movements of silt/clay material along the downtown escarpment have occurred,” he said. “Two of the events are very visible. The sloughing that occurred at the end of Hoge Street, adjacent to Cliffside Park, was partially contained by the interceptor berms that were constructed as part of the St. Elias development. The other event, further south along the escarpment, involved a large mass of material that flowed from near the top of the escarpment.”
Readying for union negotiations
As contracts between the City of Whitehorse and its staff draw closer to an end, efforts are underway to get set for negotiations.
At Whitehorse city council’s June 14 meeting, members approved the 2021 terms of reference that will be used in negotiations with the three unions representing city staff.
The International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) represents the approximately 50 in the fire department while two locals with the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) represent the approximately 40 with the transit department and 350 other city workers.
Contracts with the two PSAC locals are scheduled to expire Aug. 31, while the contract with IAFF will expire Dec. 31.
“None of the locals have yet served the city with a notice to bargain, but initial preparations to bargain have begun,” director of corporate human resources Lindsay Schneider told council at an earlier meeting.
The terms of reference establish authority, powers and duties of the negotiating teams and are necessary for negotiating teams to proceed.
“Preparations are underway and will continue ahead of receiving formal notice to bargain,” Schneider said. “Once formal notice is received, timelines will be established based on the availability of the teams and negotiators. Council will receive periodic updates as negotiations unfold.”
New trails will be added to trail maintenance policy
An update to the City of Whitehorse trail maintenance policy will see another 10 trails added to the list of pathways to be maintained.
The change was approved at Whitehorse city council’s June 14 meeting. Among the trails being added are seven that have been built in the last three years and three trails that have been in place for many years and are well-used by the public.
“City trails are prioritized for maintenance based on a number of factors,” Meagan Wilson, the city’s projects and trails development coordinator, said at an earlier meeting. “All 10 trails being recommended for adoption to the trail maintenance policy are classified as Type III trails as they are unsurfaced single track trails typically used for hiking and mountain biking.”
Of the 10, four will be designated as priority B, which have built structures and are inspected annually, while the remaining six are priority C that don’t have build structures and are inspected every two to three years.