Country residential proposal rankles councillors

The Yukon Horse and Rider Association's move to the former Klondike Motor Association Speedway site near the Cowley Creek subdivision may be a bumpy ride.

The Yukon Horse and Rider Association’s move to the former Klondike Motor Association Speedway site near the Cowley Creek subdivision may be a bumpy ride.

Last fall, the city gave the association conditional approval to use the vacant site, currently designated as future planning in the Official Community Plan. Future construction in Whistle Bend is forcing them to leave their current site.

But after the city approved the move, the Yukon government said the road that connects the speedway to the Alaska Highway isn’t safe. City administration wants to extend Sockeye Place so the association can access the speedway that way.

But it needs money to build the road. So they want to create four or five country residential lots along the extension. Selling the property will pay for the road construction.

Administration wants the area’s designation to be changed to country-residential so this move can happen. A bylaw to change the designations passed first reading in February.

If the change isn’t approved, the association will have nowhere to go. It wants to stay within city limits. That makes applying for funds to hold events easier. At last week’s public hearing, area residents voiced concerns about increased traffic in the area, and how adding more lots would diminish the neighbourhood’s peacefulness. Building houses will also disrupt the area’s trails.

After the hearing, the planning department decided to reduce the area where houses could be built. It has removed a southern portion of the area because it’s not flat enough to build houses and is environmentally sensitive.

But the changes may not be enough to relieve some councillors’ concerns.

“When did the city get involved in running ski hills and building riding rinks?” Coun. Jocelyn Curteanu asked council, noting how frustrating she finds this situation. “I don’t see why we have this huge responsibility to make all these accommodations, like building a subdivision.”

People live in country-residential neighbourhoods so they can enjoy the quiet, said Curteanu, who lives in the area. But her feelings would be the same if this was happening in any country-residential neighbourhood, she said. This will “violate” residents’ quality of life, she said.

“Here we are on the edge of losing it all for about 100 people who want to ride their horses in a pasture,” she said.

But new lots won’t change the residents’ quality of life, said Coun. Dave Stockdale.

This should be seen as an in-fill project, he said. Selling the lots could generate more revenue for the city, and residents do like country-residential properties, he said.

But the new lots aren’t being proposed to raise money for the city, said Curteanu. They’re being built to help cover road construction costs.

“I do want to support the horse and rider association,” she said. “So we have to look at other options.”

The main problem here is traffic coming from the highway, said Coun. Kirk Cameron. And it’s “completely wrong” to solve it by building a subdivision, he said. Instead, the city should consider changing the speed limit in the area or putting in signs similar to ones on logging roads in northern British Columbia, he said.

“I still don’t buy that we need to build a subdivision, to upset an entire community, to be able to deal with a traffic problem. It just doesn’t make sense to me,” he said.

Coun. Betty Irwin agreed.

The speedway is an “ideal” place for the association, but the territorial government is being unreasonable and arbitrary, she said.

“They are preventing a really good, reliable recreation association from moving to a very desirable place and being able to expand their activities there,” Irwin told council.

But the territorial government doesn’t have money to change the road, said Mayor Dan Curtis. And neither does the city, he said, cautioning his fellow councillors “not to throw rocks” at the government.

The bylaw goes for second reading Monday night. If the bylaw passes, the earliest the horse and rider association could move to the speedway is in the fall or winter of 2014.

Contact Meagan Gillmore at mgillmore@yukon-news.com

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