Whitehorse City Hall is seen on Oct. 27, 2021. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News file)

Whitehorse City Hall is seen on Oct. 27, 2021. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News file)

City news, briefly

A look at decisions and discussions from Whitehorse city council’s Dec. 6 meeting.

Whistle Bend additions

At their Dec. 6 standing committee meeting, council members discussed subdivision approval for phases 7 and 8 of Whistle Bend. They also discussed a future zoning amendment that would allow a vacant piece of land to be developed as the ninth phase of the subdivision.

Phase 7 is set to be the site of 90 single-family lots and 41 townhouse units. Phase 8 will have 15 single-family lots and one multiple family lot.

According to city staff, subdivision approval had been issued for much of the phase 7 area, but it has timed out. Coun. Ted Laking asked what the reason for the delay had been, to which city land and building services manager Pat Ross said the contractor had met with delays in other parts of the project and predicted that lots might be released to begin construction on this phase in 2023.

Phases 7 and 8 sit near the northern edge of the Whistlebend area.

Streets in the development are taking their names from old steam ships. The seeming political incorrectness of one of the chosen names in a future part of the subdivision led to a request for reconsideration from one of the councillors. Coun. Michelle Friesen drew attention to a street to be named after a ship called the Gypsy Queen. Friesen asked if there would be an opportunity to rename the street as Gypsy is a discriminatory word.

Ross said watching for discriminatory language or history in the old steamship names is on city staff’s radar. He said a change could be made at the subdivision sketch phase or with a bylaw approved by council at a later stage. Ross warned that once the lots hit the market changes become more difficult.

Housing Committee

Another topic raised at the Dec. 6 meeting was the possibility of creating a committee to address Whitehorse’s housing shortage.

Councillor Dan Boyd raised the possibility of creating a group to focus more on housing.

“It’s well known in our community that we’re in a bit of a housing supply problem. Costs are going through the roof. But even aside from the cost, just the availability, we hear stories every day that people aren’t able to move to Whitehorse because they can’t get housing,” he said.

Boyd said his first thought for the committee is a look at the supply side to see if something can be done to increase the number of building lots being made available to contractors and developers.

Mayor Laura Cabott said she was fully in support of a committee to look at housing and said there are housing committees in other jusrisdictions that Whitehorse could model itself on.

Coun. Jocelyn Curteneau cautioned her fellow councillors that the committee should take care not to spend time on redundant work but but instead should draw on work already done by the Yukon government and other organizations.

Councillors voted unanimously to direct city staff to come back with more information and options on the creation of a housing committee at the next council meeting.

Cemetery access

Councillor Ted Laking asked city staff why vehicle access to Whitehorse cemeteries is limited to appointment only in the winter months. He noted that the cemetery bylaw was last reviewed in 2010 and asked why access is limited the way it is for seven months of the year.

“It was raised with me that this is an issue for the elderly and those with disabilities or mobility issues,” he said.

Acting city manager Jeff O’Farrell said appointment-only access is a product of the fact that the city has no staff at the Grey Mountain Cemetery during those months to open the gates at regular intervals. He said in the five months when the cemetery gates are open during the day, staff open them when they show up in the morning and close them when they leave late in the afternoon. O’Farrell said the closed gates are an important measure to deter vandalism in the evening.

“In the winter months, or seven months a year, the department works on basically a 48-hour notice where they work with people if they’re looking for access. And yeah, quite simply, it all comes down to site security,” said city director of community and recreation services Landon Kulych.

“Grey Mountain Cemetery is in an isolated location so it’s prone to vandalism; there’s not a lot of eyes on it.”

Trail plan

Whitehorse council discussed a new plan for the trails in the south end of the city and heard from a delegation seeking tighter regulations around snowmobiles on mixed-use trails.

Council received the plan that was compiled over the past 10 months by a consultant. The plan contains information on public engagement surrounding trails in the city.

The plan identified potential upgrades for the trails in the south end of the city including: boardwalks or bridges through wet areas, re-grading of steep or eroding trail sections, clearing hazardous trees and the installation of viewpoint benches and signage.

A continuous trail cooridor along the Yukon River was identified as a priority. The plan proposes places where connecting trails can be added to make this a reality.

Also relating to trail development, the city heard from Keith Lay of the Active Trails Whitehorse Association. Lay focused on the final sentence of the administration report submitted to council which says that snowmobile use in the area covered by the Whitehorse South trail plan will still be allowed under the city’s snowmobile bylaw.

Lay appeared by phone and council had some difficulty hearing him over a poor connection. They asked him to send his concerns in an email. He also emailed them to the Yukon News.

Lay takes issue with snowmobiles still being allowed on otherwise non-motorized trails. He says this conflicts with goals stated in the city’s 2020 trails plan and allows motorized use in either the summer or the winter on virtually every trail in the city.

Projects and trails coordinator Meagan Wilson, who presented the new trail plan to council, noted that snowmobiles are only allowed on trails they fit on and where they won’t damage vegetation or environmentally sensitive areas.

“We looked at changing the designations. And we decided to keep them as they were. And along with that 92 per cent of people reported good trail experiences. So there wasn’t conflict in that area,” Wilson added.

Contact Jim Elliot at jim.elliot@yukon-news.com

Whitehorse city council