A multi-unit building being constructed at the corner of Keewenaw and North Star Drive in Whitehorse on Sept. 3. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

Developer proposes new plan for Copper Ridge property

Developer seeks city’s cash for a new 12-unit housing project

The developer of a proposed 12-unit housing structure in Copper Ridge could receive up to $500,000 in incentives over the next decade.

City planner Mike Ellis brought forward a recommendation at Whitehorse city council’s Sept. 3 meeting that council approve a major development incentive for the building at 51 Keewenaw Drive.

The property was the subject of controversy last year when owner Patrick McLarnon sought to have the site rezoned for multi-residential development. At that time, McLarnon was proposing to build 10 townhouse units over the 3,600 square metre site.

The rezoning went ahead despite extensive opposition by neighbouring property owners, who argued the plans didn’t fit in with the character of the area and pointed to the potential for parking and traffic problems.

The new plans would see 12 one-bedroom rental units built inside a two-storey building.

It’s not clear why the plans have since changed, but Ellis confirmed a development permit has been issued for the 12-unit building which would allow construction to begin.

Under the city’s development incentive policy — aimed at encouraging certain developments including rental housing — major development incentives grant up to $500,000 over a maximum of 10 years.

In this case it’s not expected the grant would meet the maximum.

“The proposed development is not expected to generate enough new taxes to exceed the $500,000 cumulative per year per organization limit as specified in the City Grant-Making Policy,” Ellis stated in his report to council.

The annual amount a developer receives, and is applied to property taxes owed, is based on the tax increases that come with improvements to the property from the development.

The rental units must be maintained as long-term rentals for a minimum of 10 years, with the incentive agreement specifically stating the units cannot be used as short-term rentals. If the units are not kept as long-term rentals for the decade, McLarnon would be on the hook to pay back all the grant funds provided.

“This project conforms to all city zoning and building regulations and meets the criteria for a major development incentive,” Ellis said.

While recognizing “rental housing is sorely needed”, Coun. Steve Roddick wondered if the city should look more at encouraging higher density development closer to services like grocery stores. He questioned whether that would be dealt with in upcoming city policies the city is working on like the new Official Community Plan and an update to the incentive policy being looked at.

Ellis noted that neither plan is complete with work continuing on both.

Council members will vote on the incentive Sept. 9.

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

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