A look at city issues and decisions made by Whitehorse city council at its Feb. 28 meeting.
No changes to council meetings yet as restrictions ease
While a possible end is in site for territorial public health restrictions that have been in place due to COVID-19, no changes have yet been planned for Whitehorse city council meetings.
City spokesperson Myles Dolphin said in an emailed statement while no decisions on it have yet been made, that could change in the near future as restrictions are lifted.
Since March 2020, council meetings have been closed to in-person public attendance. Instead, those interested have been viewing meetings online or television with registered delegates mainly addressing council via phone or a written submission that’s read into the record at the meeting.
Occasionally over the last two years when COVID-19 cases were low, there were some presentations made in-person by organizations such as Raven Recycling who made prior arrangements to appear in person.
Along with council meetings, council and administrative roundtable discussions (where individual issues are discussed in greater detail) have also been closed to the public during the pandemic.
More recently with the Omicron wave, the roundtables have been held virtually.
Almost all restrictions were lifted March 4, with the exception of masking and proof of vaccination.
If case numbers continue a downward trend, those restrictions will be lifted March 18, though individual business establishments can still require them of customers.
Finally, on April 4 the mandate requiring territorial government workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19, will end.
Both the city and Yukon University previously announced they would delay their planned vaccine mandate — the city moving from Feb. 20 to March 20 and the university from Feb. 18 to April 30.
It is not yet clear whether those mandates will be lifted.
Busy weekend at the Canada Games Centre
It’s shaping up to be a bustling weekend at the Canada Games Centre.
Both the Northwestel Indoor Soccer Championships and the Whitehorse Minor Hockey Association Year End Wrap Up are happening between March 4 and 6.
Neither the fieldhouse or flexihall will be available and parking will be limited, the city said in a statement.
Anyone visiting the CGC is encouraged to use active transportation, transit or overflow parking areas to help with the traffic situation. Those using the main parking lot are asked to respect designated parking spaces as parking control will be enforced.
Transit schedules are available at whitehorse.ca/transit
Along with the two major events happening at the CGC, the centre’s spring break drop-in schedule is set to begin March 5 and continue to March 20.
“Just a reminder that in accordance with territorial regulations, patrons attending the CGC will be required to show identification and proof of being fully vaccinated against COVID-19 before they can enter,” the city said.
Full CGC schedules are available at whitehorse.ca/cgcschedule
Council reports accepted
A report detailing Whitehorse city council members’ attendance, expenses, travel and voting records from their first two months in office has been formally accepted by council.
Council voted to accept the report at its Feb. 28 meeting.
The summary report is done on an annual basis, though in this case with the municipal election in October, and members taking office on Nov. 1, the details are provided from Nov. 1 to Dec. 31 for the 2021 year.
It shows each member attended all meetings over the two month period with no travel expenses claimed due to the pandemic.
Each councillor claimed expenses for workshops and training (typically held at the beginning of a term so council members can learn about processes and their roles) with two councillors — Mellisa Murray and Ted Laking — also claiming child care expenses.
Expenses are not claimed by Mayor Laura Cabott as the position of mayor is full-time.
The record of voting shows that there was just one issue council wasn’t unanimous on between Nov. 1 and Dec. 31 with a 4-3 vote to reinstate Into The Wild’s business license with conditions. Councillors Boyd, Curteanu and Friesen voted against it.
City staff will be looking at how accessibility can be improved at Grey Mountain Cemetery.
At council’s Feb. 28 meeting, members voted to direct administration to look at the matter.
The decision comes a week after Coun. Ted Laking reiterated concerns he had about the situation.
Restrictions to vehicle access at the cemetery, which already impact those with mobility challenges, are being further impacted by the large amount of snow that’s accumulated at the entrance to the cemetery.
Laking thanked his fellow council members for their support in bringing the matter forward.
Coun. Jocelyn Curteanu said she was pleased the city can take action on it and noted she’d like to see the city work to focus more on accessibility around town.
Others also noted their support.
New lease adopted
A new lease is now in place for the Frostbite Music Society on the 280-square-metre site it leases in Shipyards Park.
Whitehorse city council passed third reading on the proposed lease at its Feb. 28 meeting.
As Pat Ross, the city’s manager of land and building services, explained at an earlier meeting, the music society has used the site for its Chambers House building since 2007. The most recent lease expired in 2019 and it is now in an over-hold status.
Ross also said that Frostbite “fits the vision for the area as it contributes to the cultural amenities in the area through its hosting of the Jenni House artist in residence winter program, musical performances and training, as well as the home for community radio station CJUC.
“It is similar to the other occupants in Shipyards Park, Yukon Literacy Coalition and Yukon Film Society. Additionally, the Chambers House is occupied year-round and provides a presence in the park that contributes to crime prevention and preventing vandalism.”
Under the terms of the 10-year lease, rent is set at $10 per year, plus any applicable property taxes, insurance and utility charges.
City administration to review Alkan Air lease
Whitehorse city council has directed city staff to look further into the proposed lease with Alkan Air for its float plane base on Schwatka Lake.
Council voted in favour of having administration review the lease again at its Feb. 28 meeting.
The decision comes a week after the proposed lease was presented to council along with a presentation by Alkan Air president Wendy Taylor asking that the city move to a seasonal lease on the site to help bring the cost down as the lease rate jumped from a previous approximately $900 per year to $9,050.
The increase came due to a city policy now being applied to such leases being based on market value.
While efforts were made by city staff to bring the cost down while continuing to follow the policy in place — including having Alkan Air lease a smaller area — $9,050 was the lowest it could be brought down to before coming forward to council.
Taylor suggested a seasonal rate rather a full year lease, though as city staff have noted there are Alkan Air fixtures on the property that cannot be moved in the off-season, and such leases are typically based around land occupation rather than use.
Before voting in favour of having the issue go back to administration, a number of council members noted the increase is substantial and should be looked at.
Coun. Jocelyn Curteanu also suggested it’s important to keep in mind the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on a number of businesses, with Coun. Kirk Cameron suggesting administration look at how other municipal governments — Yellowknife, for example — calculates lease rates for float plane bases.
Mayor Laura Cabott noted Cameron’s suggestion to consider other jurisdictions and also suggested looking at other ways to help Alkan Air outside of the lease agreement.
“I think many of us are surprised how the price has jumped,” she said. “But I think it’s important to note that all the administration has done in this case is apply a policy that (a previous) city council has passed. And that’s where the figure has come up.”
After it is reviewed, administration will come back to council on the matter.
Procurement will go ahead for tank farm master plan
A master plan for much of the former tank farm area between the Valleyview/Hillcrest area and Hamilton Boulevard could be in place by June 2023.
At it’s Feb. 28 meeting, Whitehorse city council voted in favour of procurement for the project going ahead.
Efforts to develop the tank farm area have been underway for years and have included remediation work and planning for the approximately 116 hectares of land that includes parcels owned by private interests, First Nations, Yukon government, the federal government, the city and others.
A master plan is required for the tank farm area to provide direction on future engineering, land use planning, and the like, city planner Karmen Whitbread said in an earlier report to council.
Before voting in favour of the procurement, council members highlighted the importance of the project in adding to the housing possibilities in the city.
Coun. Kirk Cameron also noted the city’s two roles in the project. As the municipality, he noted, the city has a role to ensure the area is appropriately planned. The city also has its own parcels of land in the area and is also one of the landowners, Cameron said, noting he sees the two as different roles.
“This is very unique for us. And I would really hope that in this planning process, we’d go into it with those two different hats, consciously having that discussion about what we hope to see done with this particular area of our city,” he said.
Laking also noted the differing roles for the city, noting efforts to develop the tank farm need to move forward as one way of addressing housing affordability in the city.
He also emphasized the importance of engaging with nearby community associations on the matter.
Mike Gau, the city’s director of development services, reiterated that the request for proposals will contain a portion focused on public engagement.
“That’s a high priority item for the process,” he said.
Mayor Laura Cabott also noted her own excitement for the project, given the work that has taken place over the years.
“This is a big step,” she said.
It’s anticipated the request for proposals will be released this month.
Contact Stephanie Waddell at firstname.lastname@example.org