A look at issues discussed by Whitehorse city council at its Oct. 3 meeting.
Puckett’s Gulch rezoning considered
Zoning could soon be in place for the Yukon government to move ahead with plans for a runway expansion at the Erik Nielsen Whitehorse International Airport.
At Whitehorse city council’s Oct. 3 meeting, city planner Mathieu Marois brought forward a recommendation that council move ahead with the final two readings of the bylaw to rezone a portion of the Puckett’s Gulch/airport area site for airport use from its current environmental protection zone.
The recommendation comes following a public hearing on the proposed rezoning that would allow the territory to move ahead with plans to expand the runway by 150 metres to meet current Transport Canada standards.
The airport is currently operating the runway with an exemption, but it’s anticipated the larger runway will be needed for 737 traffic as passenger volumes return to pre-pandemic levels.
The plans would see the territory eventually purchase the land from the city with a portion of the airport trail rerouted, as well as a fence, roadway and manhole moved to make way for the runway.
Before bringing forward the recommendation, Marois outlined the input received during a public hearing held in September.
He highlighted arguments that suggested the city work towards a land exchange with the territory that would result in the territory getting the land it is seeking and the city, in turn, obtaining a portion of territorial land along the airport perimeter trail so it could restore the trail.
While Coun. Kirk Cameron voiced his support to move forward with such a process — or at least to get a commitment from the Yukon government on such an exchange — Mike Gau, the city’s director of development services, noted land exchanges can be complicated, time consuming and would further bog down the existing application. He also said such a direction has not been issued by council to staff.
Concerns around the stability of the escarpment below the airport were also expressed, given the landslides that occurred there in the spring and early summer. Also cited as an issue was the potential for noise and some took issue with the notification provided by the Yukon government on its plans for the area.
Marois highlighted that a geotechnical study that would be required as part of the process, with Coun. Ted Laking then questioning the timing of the study. As Marois explained, it would be done during the subdivision process for the land.
As for noise, Marois said the area being added to the runway would only be used for emergencies and thus noise levels are anticipated to remain about the same as they are now.
He also highlighted the public information session the territory hosted in speaking to the concerns over notification about the project.
Council will vote Oct. 11 whether to move forward with second and third reading.
Garden suite proposed
A Porter Creek property owner hoping to convert their garage to a garden suite is asking the city for a zoning change to go ahead with the plans.
At Whitehorse city council’s Oct. 3 meeting, city planner Mathieu Marois brought forward the proposed rezoning for 11 Oak St. It would reduce the required rear yard setback to 0.9 metres rather than the three metres that would normally be in place for a garden suite.
As Marois explained, the detached garage is 0.9 metres from the property line.
“The garage already has a separate electrical panel, separate heating source, private driveway and an off-street parking space,” he said. “Moving it to come into compliance with the three-metre rear yard setback would require knocking the structure down and would be cost prohibitive.”
Coun. Dan Boyd stated concerns around the wording of it being cost prohibitive, noting someone could build a garage closer to a property line and then change their mind to make it a garden suite instead.
“Yeah, it would be very expensive to move that, but it would be a convenient way to get a garden suite around the setback,” he said, going on to argue there are reasons setbacks are in place for particular buildings.
He suggested council needs to be careful in considering such applications.
Meanwhile, given the current housing crisis, Coun. Ted Laking pointed to the six-month period between when the application first went to the city’s development review committee and when it is coming to council. He suggested there needs to be efforts made to tighten up timelines and city processes on such applications.
Council will vote on first reading of the rezoning on Oct. 11. If that is passed, a public hearing would be held Nov. 14 with a report on the hearing then coming to council Dec. 5 ahead of second and third reading on Dec. 12.
Development incentive proposed
A developer in Whistle Bend could see the city cover the development cost charges for housing they are set to build at 76 Tyrell Cres.
At Whitehorse city council’s Oct. 3 meeting, land and building services manager Pat Ross brought forward a recommendation that council approve a city development incentive for the project that would add three buildings, with a total of 89 one and two-bedroom market units, to the corner lot at Tyrell Crescent and Casca Boulevard.
The density meets the requirements for a development incentive for comprehensive multiple family zones given the higher density of the project.
“In response to council’s strategic priorities on housing, this policy is meant to encourage smaller, denser housing forms in targeted areas,” Ross stated in his report to council. “Under this policy, developments that meet the specified criteria are eligible for a reduction of development cost charges, a yearly monetary grant from the city, or both. The value of the grant would be based on the increase in taxation due to improvements on the property.”
In this case, the incentive would be in the form of a reduction to the development cost charges with the total value of the charges at $194,465. If the incentive is approved by council, then the charges would be reduced to nothing.
Council will vote on the incentive at its Oct. 11 meeting.
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