Council could shelve Porter Creek D

There may be a reprieve in the ongoing debate about planning for Porter Creek D. City administration wants Whitehorse city council to vote to cancel its current contract with Golder Associates.

There may be a reprieve in the ongoing debate about planning for Porter Creek D.

City administration wants Whitehorse city council to vote to cancel its current contract with Golder Associates to plan and engineer the project. Planning would be put off for the middle McIntyre Creek area until 75 per cent of the Yukon government-owned portion of Whistle Bend is sold.

This does not mean future councils have to begin planning for Porter Creek D at that time, said senior city planner Mike Ellis.

“We’re pencilling it in to be looked at,” he told council. “A future council could choose to get out their eraser and get rid of that pencil, or choose to get out their pen and colour it in solid.”

Planning can’t begin for eight to 10 years, the planning committee’s report says. Work on a water line and paved road in the area would be considered as separate projects. And a road connecting Mountainview Drive to Kopper King won’t be needed until Whitehorse has a population of 50,000.

This recommendation comes after city council decided to revisit the decision to award Golder Associates with a planning and engineering contract for the area. The nearly $420,000 contract was awarded in December 2011.

At a December meeting, residents voiced unanimous opposition to building houses in the middle McIntyre Creek area. Some were against even beginning housing plans.

They wanted to conserve the land around the creek and protect wildlife. They were warm to Yukon College using the area. Of the 439 hectares in the area, 93 are designated for the college’s use.

Based on the responses, city administration made four recommendations. The other three are continuing with the current plan, changing the contract to have Golder Associates only produce a master plan for the area and then delaying planning until three-quarters of the Whistle Bend lots are sold, or cancelling the contract altogether and removing any plans of developing Porter Creek D. City council is scheduled to vote on the options on Jan. 14.

There’s not as much need for new developments now, said Ellis. Private developers have shown interest in Whitehorse in an “unprecedented and completely unforeseen way,” Ellis told city council. Last year, the city gave out more than 400 building permits, he said. “No one had envisioned that when Porter Creek D planning had started because it simply hadn’t happened before,” he said.

The next phase of Whistle Bend lots should be available this year, while the third phase won’t be available until 2015, said Ellis.

By then, the city may be looking at making its next Official Community Plan. That plan could change where the city plans to develop, he said.

Conservationists remain opposed to the idea of any building in the area.

The Yukon Conservation Society wants city council to cancel the contract and remove Porter Creek D from the city’s future plans. It’s “the only way to regain public trust and diffuse the conflict that has centred around the issue of Porter Creek D for so many years,” said Karen Baltgailis, executive director of the organization.

“Since the proposed planning does not include an option for no housing, if you decide next week to move ahead with planning, you are deciding to move ahead with housing for Porter Creek D, with building housing in middle McIntyre Creek,” she said.

Ideally, the Yukon Conservation Society would want the area to become a park, she said. But that’s not being considered.

Baltgailis worries about how the administration’s recommendations would also see the city investigate development in the McLean Creek/Lobird and Long Lake areas. This is “odd” since Porter Creek D has often been touted as a way to avoid building in these areas, Baltgailis said.

But just because the city plans to build in a specific area doesn’t mean it will, Ellis told council. In the 1990s, there was a plan for a country-residential development between McLean Lake and the Alaska Highway, he said. “That was never developed, obviously, scrapped. Definitely at times, planning work gets done, and money gets spent on that planning work, and the course gets changed,” he said.

That plan now sits “gathering dust on shelves,” he said.

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