Citizens are moving to block the city’s plan to revive a subdivision within spitting distance of McIntyre Creek.
The Friends of McIntyre Creek want the preservation of the riparian zone to be a territorial election issue.
So, yesterday they marched politicians and the media through the area to illustrate their concerns.
“It’s a mistake to develop it, period,” said Gerry Steers, the group’s vice-president.
Not only is it one of the last intact wildlife corridors within the city, “It’s also an important area for recreation and education,” said Karen Baltgailis, the organization’s secretary.
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Almost on cue, a class of Grade 5 students from Jack Hulland elementary school rode up the hill on bikes.
“We don’t want to see any houses built here,” said teacher Graeme Peters. “Leave it for the kids.”
The plans for Porter Creek D were suspended in 2005 in the face of local opposition.
Instead, the city focused on the Whistle Bend subdivision.
Now that Whistle Bend is underway, the city resurrecting Porter Creek D.
The Official Community Plan, adopted by the city last year, identified land around McIntyre Creek for the expansion of the Porter Creek subdivision.
“There’s been opposition to this for years and years and years and it just keeps coming back,” said Baltgailis.
The Porter Creek D plans are still in the preliminary stages, said Mike Gau, the city’s planning manager.
And, even if a subdivision is shelved, the area will see a road developed.
“We have various traffic studies that say a bridge across McIntyre Creek and a connection to Pine Street from the Alaska Highway is necessary for transportation reasons,” said Gau. “Whether that development occurs or not, the city favours that transportation linkage.”
That road is one of the biggest concerns, said Baltgailis.
“We really question the need to have this kind of connector road,” she said. “We don’t feel that it would get people downtown any quicker to go away from downtown before they go to downtown.”
Once the road is built, more development will follow, said Steers.
“It’s another excuse,” she said. “Once they have the road and the services then they’ll just develop it because then it’ll be infill.”
Leery of the city’s consultation process, Steers is turning to the Yukon government for support.
“It’s Yukon government land, not city land, so the Yukon government can really do something about it,” said Steers.
They have the support of two of the three main territorial parties.
“We need to look at other areas where there is already infrastructure,” said Jean-Francois Des Lauriers, NDP candidate for Porter Creek Centre.
He questioned whether Porter Creek D would address Whitehorse’s affordable housing issues.
“We should leave it alone for the time being and talk to the other levels of government to see what other areas we could use for housing,” said Des Lauriers.
The Liberals also want McIntyre Creek protected.
“It’s my desire, and certainly my party’s desire, to protect this area,” said Don Inverarity, Liberal MLA for Porter Creek South. “The way it’s being handled right now it’s just being pushed through and shoved down people’s throats and I don’t think that’s right.”
But it’s also not right for the territory to start imposing its will on the city, said Doug Graham, a sitting city councillor who is also the Yukon Party’s candidate for Porter Creek North.
“Within the municipal act, the city of Whitehorse has planning authority for any land within the city,” he said. “From what I’ve heard from both the NDP and Liberals, they would basically ignore the agreement or tear it up because there’s no other way that the territorial government could come in and say, ‘Sorry we’re not allowing you to plan any more.’”
The city hasn’t made any final decisions on whether or not to develop the land around McIntyre Creek, said Graham.
“Until the planning is done and until the studies are completed and all the consultation is done, no decision should be made,” he said.
“Let the process continue and we’ll see where it heads.”
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