Whitehorse city council could soon be considering changes in the city’s development plan process and requirements around drainage.
Pat Ross, the city’s manager of land and building services, outlined the possibilities at a council and administrative roundtable discussion March 18, noting the changes will come forward in the form of zoning bylaw amendments.
The changes, he explained, are aimed at improving and streamlining the development permit process while also creating more clear guidelines around site grading and drainage for properties.
The guidelines for grading and drainage are proposed for more simple developments — such as individual residential lots — at this point, with further guidelines expected to cover more complex developments in the future.
Ross pointed out as smaller, narrower lots are being developed in Whitehorse’s more urban neighbourhoods, the importance of ensuring proper drainage and site grading on each property is being highlighted as it can impact neighbouring properties as well.
As the Yukon government continues developing Whistle Bend, it is now grading lots during development, making it the right time to look at how the regulations can be enhanced.
“We can start implementing greater control on site grading,” he said.
While the city has regulations in place that address grading and site drainage ahead of work on the development getting underway, Ross noted the need to focus on “after the fact” survey work ensuring that the development meets the requirements in place.
Under the proposal, a development officer would have the jurisdiction to ensure that the requirements are met.
Ross also pointed out the provisions could be a benefit to builders in that they could have documentation showing the grading and drainage requirements have been met.
Questioned by Coun. Jocelyn Curteanu about whether the city could be deemed liable in the case of a lawsuit over a development, Ross acknowledged that in such lawsuits there are often many named (including developer and municipality), but this could leave the city in a good position to defend itself in such situations.
Meanwhile, Coun. Dan Boyd also highlighted his own concerns, noting that while such regulations could be needed for some areas of town like Whistle Bend, the changes may not make sense for other areas, such as country residential areas where homes are a distance from their neighbours.
Coun. Laura Cabott said she’s pleased to see the changes coming forward after work began looking at them in 2019, but she questioned whether there’s been any consultation.
She pointed out such changes could be “a hard sell” to developers who don’t feel they’ve been consulted.
Ross said the city talked with the local contractors association, though he acknowledged it was “some time ago.”
He went on to note there would not be a lot of changes to the overall process for development permits. For the most part, he said, the changes are more about making expectations clear and will not result in a major increase in costs.
“We’re sensitive about increasing costs,” he said.
The change for builders, he said, will essentially mean a small, additional step that would show elevation for grading and drainage.
It essentially involves the surveyor that is already working on the project taking out a rod to determine the elevation.
It’s expected the proposed changes would come forward to a formal council meeting in April.
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