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Developer tweaks Hillcrest townhouse plans

A developer who wants to build townhouses in Hillcrest's Steelox area has changed his design. Kirn Dhillon presented the revised plans for his four triplexes to city council on Monday night.

A developer who wants to build townhouses in Hillcrest’s Steelox area has changed his design.

Kirn Dhillon presented the revised plans for his four triplexes to city council on Monday night.

Last fall, city council approved a zoning change that would allow him to knock down his Steelox buildings and replace them with rental units. The nine-metre tall buildings would be heated in part by solar panels.

Originally, he had applied to build 16 units. But residents were concerned about increased traffic in the neighbourhood.

The height of the proposed buildings has been another concern. Most of the houses in the area are only five metres tall, and taller buildings would restrict sunlight.

In March, city administration put forward a recommendation that city council consider a bylaw to restrict all buildings in the Steelox area to eight metres. Buildings are currently allowed to be as tall as 10 metres.

If approved, Dhillon would have to change his plans. City administration did include an option that would exclude his properties from the restriction.

The bylaw was supposed to come for first reading on March 25. But city council delayed it for two weeks so Dhillon could work on a new design.

Not all councillors were supportive. Coun. Dave Stockdale questioned why Dhillon hadn’t gotten building permits yet. Coun. Betty Irwin noted that the suggested price of $400,000 was not very affordable.

Dhillon has recognized these concerns, he told council, noting these new designs were made over the Easter long weekend. Now, the triplexes are just under nine metres tall, he said. The units are smaller. And they are less expensive. Units will cost between $300,000 and $350,000, he said.

But he’s addressed other concerns too, he said.

Dhillon spent a lot of time talking to Jim Gilpin after the last council meeting. The property Dhillon wants to develop is right behind Gilpin’s. Gilpin’s main concern is privacy, Dhillon told council.

There’s no guarantee for that in the city, said Dhillon.

“People should not expect that their surroundings will remain the same forever when they purchase properties within the city,” he told council. If residents want privacy, they can move to more rural areas.

But he’s willing to make accommodations. The triplexes will be more than 30 metres from Gilpin’s property. “I’m sure many Whitehorse residents would be envious of this level of separation,” Dhillon told council.

He’s lowered the sight lines by over a metre and is planning on planting trees along the property. “I even offered to buy Mr. Gilpin tinted glass windows for his backyard if this would help,” he said.

But Dhillon still opposes an eight-metre height restriction. At that height, it would be hard for him to incorporate solar panels in the design. And the restriction would mean the roofs would have to be flat. Flat roofs leak easily, he said. And they don’t fit the neighbourhood. The Steelox buildings have peaked roofs.

Meetings to help create a neighbourhood plan for Hillcrest are scheduled to begin later this month. Dhillon plans to attend a neighbourhood visioning session on April 6, he said.

“I’m not just the big, bad developer that doesn’t consider community input, and I’m just out to get some money here. Actually, I believe in sustainability,” he told council. “I want something that’s win-win.”

The bylaw to restrict the height in Steelox area goes for first reading on Monday.

Contact Meagan Gillmore at