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Council reins in horse association move

The Yukon Horse and Rider Association's move to the old Klondike Motor Association Speedway in Cowley Creek has been halted.

The Yukon Horse and Rider Association’s move to the old Klondike Motor Association Speedway in Cowley Creek has been halted.

On Monday night, Whitehorse city council voted 4-3 to delay the second reading of a bylaw that would allow the association to relocate to the property by a month.

The process has frustrated area residents.

“We’re not trying to be inhospitable to the horse and rider association,” area resident Jill Pangman told council. “We didn’t realize that this would come to having to access it through a subdivision.”

The association’s current lease ends in August. It needs to move because of construction in Whistle Bend.

In October, the city gave it conditional agreement to move to the old speedway. But then the Yukon government said the access road to the site isn’t safe and can’t be used. In February, the city’s planning department proposed extending Sockeye Place to the speedway. The city wants to create four or five country-residential lots along the road to pay for construction.

And that’s angered the neighbours.

“I moved there with the understanding that I would have some peace and quiet,” Donna Clayson told council. She doesn’t want the association there at all, because it will make the neighbourhood too noisy. And horse trailers driving down the street could make it unsafe for children, she said.

“What about us?” Clayson asked council. “It just sounds like the horse and riders’ a me-me, and they don’t care whose toes they’re stepping on.”

“I think most of us feel a wee bit ambushed,” said area resident Glenys Baltimore. The horse and rider association has had years to plan its move, but Cowley Creek residents only learned about the new road and houses a few months ago, she said.

But neighbours don’t have all the facts, Anne Lewis, the association’s development committee chair, told council.

Some have heard the association owns an arena on Mayo Road. If so, Clayson told council, it would just be “re-inventing the wheel” to move to Cowley Creek.

But that property is privately-owned by the estate of Sharon Jensen, Lewis told council. The association has looked at the site. But leasing the property would cost between $16,000 and $20,000 a month, she said. That’s too expensive for the not-for-profit organization.

Association members do ride there, but the group has no plans to purchase the site, president Jody Mackenzie-Grieve said in an interview this week. Even if it could afford it, the facilities don’t meet event requirements, she said.

The move will cost at least $40,000, said Mackenzie-Grieve. There’s been no funding confirmed from Whitehorse or the Yukon government, she said.

Members are willing to do some fundraising, Lewis told council on Monday night.

And because of this, and the new information council heard, the bylaw’s second reading should be delayed, Coun. Jocelyn Curteanu, said Monday night.

Fear or indecisiveness are not motivating the delay, said Curteanu, who has expressed frustration about this process in previous meetings. Residents need more time to voice their opinions, she said.

“By rushing this, it’s only going to create resentment, and that’s not what we want. I want this to be a win-win situation,” she told council. “I think we can find a way. It’s just going to take a little bit of time, but the little bit of time now that we’re going to put into it is going to be worth it in the end because hopefully everyone will be happy.”

But postponing the second reading didn’t please everyone.

Council needs to stop delaying things, said Coun. Betty Irwin.

“There does come a point when we have to make a definite decision on some of these issues. We cannot continually postpone them,” she said. “If we did, we would be talking about these issues until next Christmas and possibly past.”

“We are here to make decisions on these rather difficult issues. The time has come for us to make decisions. Let’s earn our pay.”

Mayor Dan Curtis and Coun. Dave Stockdale also opposed delaying the second reading. The third and final reading will only come after a ministerial review. There’s enough time to get more information, said Curtis.

If the problem is speed, lowering the limit or installing signs could be possible solutions, said Coun. Kirk Cameron.

But the government has said neither of these options will work, said Mike Gau, director of planning.

Speed is a main concern, said Allan Nixon with the department of highways and public works. But lowering the limit can cause more problems. “It seems like a simple solution, but it isn’t,” he said in an interview this week.

The speed limit along the highway is 90 km/h. Transportation standards say the sight lines need to be a minimum of 305 metres in either direction. Right now, they are roughly 250 metres, he said. New signs won’t solve that, said Nixon.

The department has had preliminary conversations with the city, he said. Developers would have to pay to reconfigure the highway, he said.

“The current location is not a safe location,” said Nixon.

Contact Meagan Gillmore at