Whitehorse City Hall (Yukon News file)

Whitehorse City Hall (Yukon News file)

City news, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council at its Sept. 12 meeting as well as a change in schedule as the city recognizes the National Day of Mourning to mark the death of Queen Elizabeth II.

Marking the National Day of Mourning

The City of Whitehorse has moved city council’s regularly scheduled Sept. 19 meeting to Sept. 20 in light of the National Day of Mourning to mark the Sept. 8 death of Queen Elizabeth II.

The federal government announced on Sept. 13 that the Sept. 19 National Day of Mourning — coinciding with the Queen’s funeral — would be a federal holiday.

A number of provinces also opted to make it a day off for public servants with the Yukon following suit the afternoon of Sept. 14 when they announced schools and other territorial services would be shut just five days later.

On Sept. 15, the city finally outlined its plans, noting the Sept. 19 council meeting would move to Sept. 20 at 5:30 p.m. and that a number of city offices will be closed. Whitehorse Transit, the Canada Games Centre, landfill, waste collection services and Frank Slim building in Shipyards Park will operate under their usual schedule, while other city offices — including city hall — will be closed.

Council acknowledged the death of the Queen at its Sept. 12 meeting with Mayor Laura Cabott expressing condolences to the royal family and recognizing King Charles III as Canada’s monarch.

Speaking of the Queen, Cabott said: “For most of us, she has been the only reigning monarch we have known, and throughout her reign she watched Canada transform into the modern and progressive country it is today. Her Majesty the Queen served with grace and dignity, and we are grateful for her seven decades of service to our country. Her legacy will remain an integral part of Canada’s history. To help commemorate the Queen, the city has lowered its flags at all of its facilities, and city hall was lit in royal blue as part of a national initiative.”

An online condolence book is available to sign on the federal government’s website or, to sign in-person, residents can go to the Office of the Commissioner of the Yukon at 412 Main Street between 8:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. through the week.

Budget concerns

Despite an anticipated 2022 operating surplus of $30,682, one city councillor is advising residents to “temper expectations” as the city moves into planning for the 2023 budget.

The city’s second quarter variance reports on both the capital and operating budgets for the year have come forward. The reports are done every three months to look at how city spending is comparing to the budget plan that was drafted for year.

On the capital side, with four projects coming in under budget, Whitehorse city council voted Sept. 12 to reduce that budget by $109,393 with the cash returning to external funding or reserves.

The projects included the replacement of a garbage and compost packer, transit bus and trees in Whistle Bend, all of which were finished under budget. The final project was for the curation of art, which saw no bidders on the procurement after it was put out for bid twice. It was subsequently cancelled, though city officials have said it may be rescoped and put out to bid in future years.

On the operating side, the $30,682 estimated surplus comes from revenues in water and sewer fees, government transfers and garage charges anticipated to be $199,896 higher while a variety of expenses are also anticipated to come in $169,214 over-budget.

Laking pointed out that forces outside the city’s control are continuing to impact costs in individual categories.

“I think about the almost $301,000 that we’re expecting to spend more on propane and heating fuel,” he said. “We have $460,000 that was unanticipated for snow removal, and I don’t think that these unexpected costs are stopping anytime soon.”

He went on to state the city also has more major costs that will be coming in: the work to deal with landslides happening along the escarpment earlier this year, work to the Marwell lift station and more.

“I think it’s just it’s important to reiterate that because we are going to be going through our [2023] budgeting process soon,” Laking said. “And I think that it’s important to temper expectations of our citizens as to what will be possible through the coming budget, because I think that funds are getting tighter as costs go up.”

New grader coming to operations

It will take more than a year, but city crews will add another grader to their fleet.

Whitehorse city council approved moving forward with the procurement for the grader at its Sept. 12 meeting.

The city had originally planned to purchase it through the 2023 budget, but given the long lead time needed for equipment, supply issues and volatility of equipment pricing in the current market, it was proposed the procurement go ahead now.

“This piece of equipment is integral to the operation of the city’s snow and ice control and road maintenance programs,” Richard Graham, the city’s manager of fleet and transportation services, said in an earlier report to council.

Based on current industry feedback, it’s expected to take about 12 months from the date the grader is ordered for it to arrive in the city.

A shift in roadwork plans

A portion of Jarvis Street in downtown Whitehorse will see some major changes in the coming years after Whitehorse city council approved a change in scope to reconstruction work planned for the area at its Sept. 12 meeting.

The project would have seen Wood and Steele streets rebuilt from Second Avenue to Front Street.

Now instead of rebuilding Steele Street, the city will focus its attention on rebuilding Jarvis Street from Second Avenue to Front Street. Plans for Wood Street remain in place.

The plans for Steele Street were meant to coincide with the renovation and building of a new city hall at its current site. The city hall project is not going ahead due to high costs.

While Steele Street will eventually need upgrading, likely within the next 10 years, city engineering manager Taylor Eshpeter told council at an earlier meeting that Jarvis Street was identified for potential reconstruction in 2023 due to its deteriorated road surface, sidewalk gaps and aging sewer infrastructure.

The work to Wood and Jarvis streets will see new water, sewer and storm mains built, construction of sanitary and water services to individual properties, installation of other utilities and street lights along with curbs, sidewalks and asphalt, and landscaping. Traffic signals at Wood Street and Second Avenue will also be considered along with other possibilities to address traffic there.

Public hearing set on Ta’an Kwäch’än Council rezoning proposal

Whitehorse city council is moving forward with public hearings on two rezoning applications coming forward from the Ta’an Kwäch’än Council (TKC).

The First Nation is seeking the rezoning for two sites — one in Porter Creek and one in Whistle Bend — to add almost 50 homes on their settlement land.

Both sites are currently zoned as future development.

The largest of the sites is 2.1 hectares on Birch Street in Porter Creek. Plans there would see the development of 25 single family lots, with the proposed zoning to include a provision that adds mobile homes to the list of primary buildings for the lots. The site is part of a larger 4.35-hectare piece of settlement land with the rest of the TKC land there to remain as future development.

The other rezoning would see a one-hectare site on Witch Hazel Drive designated as comprehensive residential townhouse to allow 24 townhouses to be built there. The site is within a 20-hectare piece of TKC settlement land also zoned as future development.

Council passed first readings on each rezoning Sept. 12, moving them forward to public hearings that will be held at council’s Oct. 11 meeting. Reports on each will then come forward Oct. 24 with second and third readings on Nov. 7.

Public hearing set

A potential garden suite will be the focus on an Oct. 11 public hearing after Whitehorse city council approved first reading of a rezoning bylaw that would allow for the garden suite to be added to 12 Sybil Circle.

Whitehorse city council voted in favour of first reading Sept. 12, moving the bylaw into the public hearing phase.

As it was noted in a previous report to council, the property is zoned restricted residential, which does not allow for secondary suites. The owners are asking for the zoning to be modified to allow the suite.

When the property was developed in 2015, the zoning was changed from a residential single zone, that would have allowed garden suites, to its current restricted zone as part of a redesign effort to reduce the number of infrastructure connections along Casca Boulevard and to create a more consistent look and feel in the area.

In 2016, a city survey found about 55 per cent of property owners who responded supported allowing secondary suites on restricted residential properties. Though the city hasn’t pursued any overall change to the zoning bylaw since then, it has approved a number of individual rezonings to allow suites on the restricted residential properties.

A review of the rezoning application by the city’s development review committee also recommended the overall change be applied to all restricted residential properties.

Following the Oct. 11 public hearing, a report will come forward to council Oct. 24, ahead of second and third reading Nov. 7.

Transit stop to be moved

On Sept. 22, the transit stop at Second Avenue and Steele Street will permanently move one block north to the front of city hall, the city said in a Sept. 15 statement.

The move aims to reduce congestion on Second Avenue, and align with future planning of bus stops in the city, it was noted.

The 15-minute parking spaces previously in front of city hall have moved to Steele Street with new signs and curb painting in place at all impacted locations.

During the week of Oct. 2, six new metered parking spaces will be installed at the old transit stop, along with another six metered parking spaces in front of the Sternwheeler Hotel.

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

Whitehorse city council