Whitehorse City Hall (Yukon News file)

City news, briefly

A look at plans for a new crosswalk in Riverdale and some issues discussed by Whitehorse city council at its July 5 meeting.

City may purchase another escarpment property

The City of Whitehorse may purchase another property along the escarpment.

At Whitehorse city council’s July 5 meeting, Pat Ross, the city’s manager of land and building services, brought forward a recommendation that council approve a budget change and move forward with a bylaw to purchase 7220 Seventh Avenue.

As Ross explained in his report to council, in the early 1970s the Escarpment Land Acquisition Program was started that saw the city purchase properties near the downtown escarpment. The program was aimed at moving residents from the area due to concerns over drainage, erosion and potential mudslides of the clay cliffs. A total of 80 properties – including 7220 Seventh Avenue – were identified for the program with the purchase price based on fair market value. Some owners held out, opting not to be part of the program.

By 1984 all but 10 of those properties had been sold with another six purchased between 1984 and 1986. The most recent purchases of two of the remaining homes happened in 1999 and 2009 with the city buying 812 Wheeler Street and 804 Strickland Street respectively.

In the case of 7220 Seventh Avenue, the owner passed away in 2019 with city administration working to negotiate the purchase with the executor of the estate. While an acquisition bylaw for the city to purchase the property for $333,000 had come forward to council in March, council members voted to refer it back to administration for further review and negotiation.

The estate’s executor is now proposing a purchase price of $250,000 for the property.

In his report, Ross highlighted the Official Community Plan and zoning bylaw designates the property as environmentally sensitive and for environmental protection.

“The zone allows environmental protection areas as a principal use, nature interpretation facilities as a secondary use, and several conditional uses, including accessory structures, community gardens and greenhouses, and non-accessory parking,” he said. “Residential uses are not permitted in the PE zone.”

He went on to note the risk identified for the area, pointing to a policy that states properties in the escarpment control zone should be for public use and not human habitation. Under the land sale agreement, a date of Sept. 30 has been set for the purchase of the property to be complete.

If the sale goes ahead, any remaining structures left on the property after the sale date would be removed.

“After demolition, the property will remain vacant until a determination can be made on how the property could potentially be used, in conformance with the downtown escarpment land use policy,” he said.

During council discussion, Coun. Dan Boyd said he would “reluctantly support” the purchase though he had concerns with the amount the city is paying. Others, however, noted the owner paid taxes on the site for a number of years and under the program developed in the 1970s, the city agreed to pay fair market value on the escarpment area land. Council will vote on whether to move forward with the budget change and purchase bylaw July 12.

Procurements summarized

A summary of city procurements between January and June has been produced and was presented to Whitehorse city council at its July 5 meeting.

Under the city’s most recent procurement policy that came into effect Jan. 1, a summary of procurements is required twice a year for certain projects. They include contracts valued at $100,000-plus; procurements of $100,000-plus that have requirements related to economic, social and/or environmental sustainability; procurements estimated to have a value of $500,000-plus; non-competitive procurements of $50,000-plus; emergency procurements; procurements deemed to be of significant public interest where authority has been delegated to the city manager; contract extensions and renewals where there had not been an option for renewal in the original contract; and any instances of non-compliance with the policy and the actions that were taken to address it.

The five-page summary outlined numerous purchases and contracts ranging from a low amount of $37,350 for an emergency procurement for engineering services. The amount is going toward monitoring the downtown escarpment.

“The current situation above the Cliffside Park requires immediate monitoring by a geotechnical engineering consultant to protect city property and the safety of the public,” it was noted. Meanwhile, the highest amount of $1.9 million was a competitive tendered contract awarded to Skookum Asphalt for the asphalt overlay project. Coun. Steve Roddick also highlighted the sole-source purchase of two electric Zamboni’s from Kendrick Equipment. The purchase was sole-sourced for $430,500 as there is no alternative supplier. Roddick pointed to the environmental benefit of moving to electric Zamboni’s and said he’d like analysis looking at the environmental impact done at every possible opportunity.

Upcoming procurements

The second phase of the City of Whitehorse’s website redesign will get underway in the coming months. At Whitehorse city council’s July 5 meeting, a staff report detailing upcoming procurements expected to be worth more than $100,000 noted the plans.

Under the city’s procurement policy, staff are required to provide a bi-monthly update on upcoming procurements expected to be over $100,000.

The second phase of the redesign is the only such procurement listed.

It was noted Phase 1 wrapped up in April.

“It consisted of hiring a consultant to gather information, conduct an audit of our website, and offer recommendations on how to improve it, among other things,” Brittany Dixon, the city’s manager of financial services, stated in the report to council.

Phase 2 will see the city release a request for proposals to redesign the website, using the information that was collected in the first phase of the project. A new website is expected to be launched “sometime in 2022”, the report reads.

(Stephanie Waddell)

Whitehorse city council