City wide plebiscite makes waves at city council meeting

Greenspace champion Carole Bookless has now set her sights on the Porter Creek bench development. A vote on proposed greenspace should be restricted…

Greenspace champion Carole Bookless has now set her sights on the Porter Creek bench development.

A vote on proposed greenspace should be restricted to the Porter Creek community, said Bookless.

City politicians disagreed.

And so, on May 31, a citywide vote will be conducted.

It will ask: “Are you in favour of the Green Space Map developed for the Whistle Bend Community located on the Porter Creek Lower Bench?”

This question was supported unanimously by council Tuesday night.

The map (which will be posted at polling stations) will show the approximate boundaries for areas set aside for greenspace, wildlife and development.

The map also shows the proposed trail connections and sets out how greenspace will be managed.

But holding a citywide vote will skew the results, said Bookless.

Citizens will vote for sustainable development or for housing lots, not specifically on the greenspace issue, she said.

“Those people directly affected by the greenspace should be the ones who vote on it because a lot of greenspace will be lost — people with views will now be looking over houses … and those that have a direct stake in it should be the ones who vote,” said Bookless, a member of the Porter Creek Community Association.

She has no doubt the greenspace map will be supported by Whitehorse, said Bookless.

But Porter Creek residents should be the only ones allowed to vote in what the city’s calling a plebiscite, she said.

In fact, a plebiscite is for smaller enclaves of residents. Citywide votes are called referendums, she said. 

“Don’t you think the whole city has a stake in what they think should go in (the Porter Creek Lower Bench)?” councillor Florence Roberts asked.

“The size of the development is not what we’re voting on,” said Bookless.

“The fact that there’s 10,000 people there is not what we’re voting on.

“And if you have people come to this referendum, or this plebiscite, and voting on, ‘I don’t think we should have a 10,000-person development there,’ — that’s not what it’s about. It’s about the greenspace.

“Specifically the greenspace and no other issue.”

You can’t just narrow it down to Porter Creek because it’s not just Porter Creek that’s affected, said councillor Jan Stick.

 “It is the Horsemen’s, it is the students at Porter Creek Secondary School and those are citywide people, it’s not just about catering to Porter Creek.”

During the greenspace plebiscite, the city will also be holding a referendum asking the question: “Are you in favour of … (amending) the Official Community Plan by re-designating lands between the Arkell and McIntyre subdivision … from greenbelt to urban residential?”

In 1989, the Arkell-McIntyre area was  proposed for residential development, however, Kwanlin Dun First Nation land claims slowed the process.

It has since been decided that the area is not part of the Kwanlin Dun land claim and can therefore be developed.

City administration confirmed that if the Arkell-McIntyre greenbelt is transformed into urban residential, the design of the area would be determined by a public planning exercise.

The size of the parcel of land in question could accommodate 70 to 100 lots and the infrastructure could be connected to existing infrastructure in the Arkell subdivision.

Both the Porter Creek greenspace map question and the Arkell subdivision question will be asked during the May 31 citywide vote.

The polling stations will be located downtown at the old Legion building, at Takhini arena, and at the Guild Hall in Porter Creek. A fourth station may be set up in Riverdale.

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