Dawson to rework heritage bylaws

The new Dawson City hospital's 15-foot breach of the town's building-height restriction has town council rethinking how it handles heritage.

The new Dawson City hospital’s 15-foot breach of the town’s building-height restriction has town council rethinking how it handles heritage.

“This whole thing is something that I think needs fixing,” said Councillor Stephen Johnson in an interview this week.

“The process in general needs to be reviewed because it’s fairly obvious that we missed something here.”

A mechanical room on top of the hospital, which covers a quarter of the rooftop, will stand nearly 50 feet above ground.

This breach of the building bylaw, which restricts height to 35 feet, was caused because of a series of misunderstandings.

The Yukon Hospital Corporation was told about the height restrictions, Dawson’s heritage advisory committee chair Trina Buhler said last week.

They also received a copy of the town’s bylaw and guidelines.

The hospital corporation and its architects spent more than a year meeting with the heritage advisory committee, going over details such as the design, materials and orientation of the building.

According to project manager Mike Cowper, the committee never raised any concerns about the building height during this time.

Usually, exceeding a height restriction would have to be approved by mayor and council.

However, the town’s development officer signed off on the project without bringing the issue before council.

After the municipal elections in October, 2009 – which saw Peter Jenkins defeat incumbent mayor John Steins – a number of town employees left their jobs. The development officer was one of them.

This change in personnel may have been responsible for the mistake.

The breach wasn’t brought before council until construction of the new hospital had already begun.

Mayor and council took full responsibility for the mix-up, said Johnson.

But it was never an option to halt construction of the hospital.

“It was already being constructed, the bowling ball had left the person’s hand and was going down the damn alley. How the hell do you stop that?” he said.

“Now, mind you, if they’d put the hospital in a different location, like a whole stack of people wanted – like I wanted – it might have been a different story.”

The hospital is located beside the Old Territorial Administration Building, which now serves as the town’s museum.

It’s been designated a National Historic Site of Canada and is a beloved centerpiece of the historic district.

The previous mayor and council approved the location, despite petitions and complaints.

“The problem is that the word hospital had been on a map for the past three billion years and therefore it was etched in stone and it was going to go there regardless,” said Johnson. “And that’s what the government said: ‘If it doesn’t go there, it ain’t going anywhere,’ which was stupid.”

Preserving the town’s historic look is important for Dawson and not all that difficult, said Johnson.

Still, some developers, especially Yukon government developers, seem to have trouble meeting the requirements.

Yukon Housing took about six months worth of meetings with the heritage advisory committee to get approval for new apartments on the south side of town.

The Yukon Hospital Corporation consulted with the committee for a year and still didn’t get the height right.

“The wastewater treatment plant only took two weeks because I did it,” said Johnson, who also works for Corix, the contractor in charge of building the new plant.

“I used to be on the planning board so I knew what I needed and it all made so much sense. It was simple.”

Johnson and the rest of the council are planning to amend the city’s heritage bylaws to make them easier to use and interpret.

They also plan to rewrite the town’s official community plan.

“We’re heading down that road and we want to get those new sets of bylaws in place before the new council is elected in October,” said Johnson.

“I think there’s been some good improvements. We need to make more, but we’re working on it.”

Contact Chris Oke at


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Benjamin Poudou, Mount MacIntyre’s ski club manager, poses for a photo in the club’s ski rental area on Nov. 16. The club has sold around 1,850 passes already this year, compared to 1067 passes on Oct. 31 last year. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Early season ski pass sales up as Yukoners prepare for pandemic winter

Season passe sales at Mount McIntyre for cross-country skiing are up by around 60 per cent this year

The City of Whitehorse will be spending $655,000 to upgrade the waste heat recovery system at the Canada Games Centre. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
New waste heat recovery system coming to the CGC

Council approves $655,000 project

Yukon First Nation Education Directorate education advocates and volunteers help to sort and distribute Christmas hamper grocery boxes outside Elijah Smith Elementary School on Feb. 23. (Rebecca Bradford Andrew/Submitted)
First Nation Education Directorate begins Christmas hamper program

Pick-ups for hampers are scheduled at local schools

Cyrine Candido, cashier, right, wipes down the new plexi-glass dividers at Superstore on March 28, before it was commonplace for them to wear masks. The Yukon government is relaunching the Yukon Essential Workers Income Support Program as the second wave of COVID-19 begins to take place in the territory. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Yukon Essential Workers Income Support Program extended to 32 weeks

More than 100 businesses in the territory applied for the first phase of the program

Cody Pederson of the CA Storm walks around LJ’s Sabres player Clay Plume during the ‘A’ division final of the 2019 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament. The 2021 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament, scheduled for March 25 to 28 in Whitehorse next year, was officially cancelled on Nov. 24 in a press release from organizers. (John Hopkins-Hill/Yukon News file)
2021 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament cancelled

The 2021 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament, scheduled for March 25 to 28… Continue reading

Lev Dolgachov/123rf
The Yukon’s Information and Privacy Commissioner stressed the need to safeguard personal information while shopping this holiday season in a press release on Nov. 24.
Information and Privacy Commissioner issues reminder about shopping

The Yukon’s Information and Privacy Commissioner Diane McLeod-McKay stressed the need to… Continue reading

Keith Lay speaks at a city council meeting on Dec. 4, 2017. Lay provided the lone submission to council on the city’s proposed $33 million capital spending plan for 2021 on Nov. 23, taking issue with a number of projects outlined. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Resident raises issues with city’s capital budget

Council to vote on budget in December

Beatrice Lorne was always remembered by gold rush veterans as the ‘Klondike Nightingale’. (Yukon Archives/Maggies Museum Collection)
History Hunter: Beatrice Lorne — The ‘Klondike Nightingale’

In June of 1929, 11 years after the end of the First… Continue reading

Samson Hartland is the executive director of the Yukon Chamber of Mines. The Yukon Chamber of Mines elected a new board of directors during its annual general meeting held virtually on Nov. 17. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Yukon Chamber of Mines elects new board

The Yukon Chamber of Mines elected a new board of directors during… Continue reading

The Yukon Hospital Corporation has released its annual report for 2019-20, and — unsurprisingly — hospital visitations were down. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Annual report says COVID-19 had a large impact visitation numbers at Whitehorse General

The Yukon Hospital Corporation has released its annual report for 2019-20, and… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

Most Read