City of Whitehorse staff are recommending council defeat a proposed zoning change to a drive-thru on Range Road, just off the Alaska Highway.
At Whitehorse city council’s April 6 meeting, city planning and sustainability manager Mélodie Simard brought forward the recommendation the zoning change that would allow the drive-thru for a proposed Dairy Queen at 107 Range Road be defeated at second reading.
Under the current zoning, a restaurant could be built on the property, but it cannot have a drive-thru. Drive-thrus are not permitted along the highway corridor (with the exception of a drive-thru component approved for the Kopper King commercial site in 2017).
A drive-thru is not in line with the city’s Official Community Plan (OCP), Sustainability Plan, Transportation Demand Management Plan and the Downtown Retail and Entertainment Strategy, Simard’s six-page public hearing report to council concluded, going on to point out a review of the OCP is currently underway that could explore the issue further.
“The proposed change in zoning may encourage small-scale commercial uses on a large commercial lot which is in short supply,” Simard said. “It may also result in more people driving to use the establishment than an eating and drinking establishment without a drive-thru. The Whitehorse 2040 OCP process is underway. Through this process, the OCP policies will be reviewed with respect to the impacts of land use changes with the objective of providing further policy clarity.”
The report recalled arguments in support and opposed to the change made during a public hearing about it in March. A total of 14 submissions expressed support, with 11 opposing the rezoning. Another submission expressed concerns.
Coun. Laura Cabott took issue with those numbers at the April 6 meeting, arguing there were letters bearing the signatures of hundreds of Whitehorse residents that should have been highlighted in the report.
She pointed to a letter of support with 304 signatures, acknowledging there were two signatures on the document from residents outside of the city — Tagish and Atlin to be precise. Other submissions bearing signatures in support were also submitted.
“This is not in the report and it upsets me,” she said, arguing a public hearing report should be more balanced.
Other members echoed that sentiment though also acknowledged the difficult work involved in summarizing all of the submissions received, with Simard stating she would look at the input again and if anything was missed provide it to council.
Coun. Steve Roddick, meanwhile, reminded his fellow councillors the issue being considered should focus on a drive-thru.
“It’s the drive-thru component we’re talking about,” he said, stressing a restaurant is already permitted.
Councillors Jocelyn Curteanu and Samson Hartland both suggested the franchise going ahead may be contingent on having a drive-thru.
The report stated many opposed or concerned highlighted issues around city plans that call for sustainability, for highway services not to compete with downtown businesses and to reduce — or at least not increase — greenhouse gas emissions.
Meanwhile, those in favour pointed to the potential to help keep traffic outside of the downtown, convenience for the travelling public as well as the desire to have a Dairy Queen in town.
Restaurant brand isn’t something factored into zoning decisions.
“Per the Zoning Bylaw, the review of a rezoning application should be based on the full development potential of the uses and development regulations specified in the proposed zone and not on the merits of any particular development proposal — such as a potential commercial tenant,” Simard said.
It was also pointed out larger vehicles would have trouble getting through a drive-thru due to tight constraints with drivers likely having to park their vehicles and go inside to place their order.
And while there’s a possibility it could keep some vehicles out of Downtown, Simard also cited the possibility that some drivers may leave Downtown to get lunch at the new drive-thru and then come back Downtown, thereby making for potentially more traffic in the neighbourhood.
Council will vote on whether to defeat the bylaw April 13.
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