The now empty lot at 410 Cook Street in Whitehorse on Jan. 19. As developers move forward with plans for a housing development that would feature 16 micro-units, they are asking city council for a zoning change that would reduce the number of required parking spaces. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

The now empty lot at 410 Cook Street in Whitehorse on Jan. 19. As developers move forward with plans for a housing development that would feature 16 micro-units, they are asking city council for a zoning change that would reduce the number of required parking spaces. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

Developer asks for zoning change

Would reduce the number of required parking spaces

As developers move forward with plans for a housing project that would feature 16 micro-units at 410 Cook St., they are asking Whitehorse city council for a zoning change to reduce the number of required parking spaces to eight and eliminate a loading space.

Under current zoning regulations, the development would be required to have 11 parking spots and one loading space.

However, developers are asking for the zoning change due to space constraints on the property, city planner Siddhartha Agarwal explained to council at its Jan. 18 meeting.

It was announced in February 2020 that the affordable housing project being built by Energy North Construction would receive Yukon government funding through the Housing Indicatives Fund.

The fund provides up to $50,000 per affordable unit built in Whitehorse and up to $80,000 per affordable unit built in rural communities. In this case 10 of the 16 units will be affordable units with each unit an average of about 37 square metres. Three of the residential units will be accessible and barrier-free. The development is also proposed to feature two commercial spaces.

“The zoning bylaw requires the applicant to provide visitor parking spaces, a loading stall, as well as residential parking at one space per two units,” Agarwal said. “Due to space constraints on site, this is unfeasible for the development of affordable micro-unit housing. The applicant is asking council to waive the requirements for guest parking and loading space, and reduce the parking requirement for the residential use.”

Under the proposal the required residential parking spaces would change from eight (at one parking spot per two units) to seven (at less than one space per two units), from two spaces for visitor parking (at a required one spot for every seven units) to none, and from one required loading space for 930 cubic meters of gross floor area to none.

Commercial parking would remain the same at one space with an option to pay cash-in-lieu of providing that space.

Questioned by Coun. Steve Roddick on how much a developer would pay for the cash-in-lieu option, Agarwal indicated it’s approximately $16,000.

In his report to council, Agarwal noted that while micro-units allow for a form of more affordable housing largely targeted at students, couples without children, single/young professionals and those with low incomes, parking minimums can be a hindrance to those developments as they often restrict density and increase the costs of development.

“Parking minimums are calculated based on the number of units and not the size of units (or number of bedrooms),” Agarwal said. “Many municipalities in recent years have allowed for reduction or even removal of parking minimums to make housing projects feasible and promote active transportation.”

It’s proposed that to ensure the micro-units are built that the proposed parking regulations would only apply for units that are less than 40 square meters.

“Should the developer choose to build larger units, the usual provisions of the zoning bylaw will apply,” he said. “Additionally, no parking will be allocated exclusively to a unit to allow for efficient utilization by residents and commercial tenants.”

It was also pointed out that the last downtown parking management plan found there was a peak occupancy of on-street parking of 21 per cent in that area of Cook Street.

“This indicates that there may be adequate room for parking by potential candidates and employees, which can alternatively be used by visitors during evening hours and weekends,” it was noted in Agarwal’s report to council.

Questioned by Count. Laura Cabott, Agarwal said should the proposed parking changes not be approved, the developer would likely have to build fewer units due to the space that would be required for parking or the developer could provide underground parking which would make the project more costly to build.

Coun. Dan Boyd said he’s hoping residents will let the city know their thoughts on the proposal, pointing out there will be a public hearing if council passes first reading Jan. 25.

The public hearing would be held Feb. 22 with a report on the hearing going to council March 15, followed by second and third reading March 22.

Contact Stephanie Waddell at stephanie.waddell@yukon-news.com

affordable housingWhitehorse city council

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