Bring on the Dilly Bars.
In a 6-1 vote at its April 13 meeting, Whitehorse city council has approved a zoning change that could lead to a Dairy Queen opening in the city.
Coun. Steve Roddick was the lone council member to vote against the zoning change, arguing a drive-thru is not in the long-term interest of the city.
While he reminded his fellow council members the issue should focus specifically on the drive-thru without factoring in the potential tenant for the site, he also acknowledged his own fondness for the restaurant chain, commenting there was some regret that it “has to be Dairy Queen in this instance.”
City staff had recommended against the change that would allow a drive-thru at 107 Range Road following a public hearing in March.
In recommending the rezoning be defeated, city planning and sustainability manager Mélodie Simard argued the drive-thru was not in line with a number of city plans that call for measures to not increase greenhouse gas emissions, and not have highway businesses competing with downtown business among other issues.
Specifically, she referenced the city’s Official Community Plan, Sustainability Plan, Transportation Demand Management Plan and the Downtown Retail and Entertainment Strategy in recommending council not move forward with the zoning change.
While the site’s zoning allowed for a restaurant, it did not allow for a drive-thru component. Developers sought the change, posting a petition online that noted plans to build a Dairy Queen restaurant, which included a drive-thru.
The recommendation came following a public hearing where both arguments in support and against the rezoning were heard with a number of submissions including letters of support bearing thousands of signatures. Many spoke to their excitement for a Dairy Queen franchise to be located in Whitehorse, also listing off their favourite DQ treats and calling on council to approve the rezoning.
A lengthy discussion preceded council’s vote on the drive-thru with Coun. Samson Hartland being the first to speak up.
Acknowledging there were a lot of good arguments and points made on both sides of the debate, he said he believes it’s time to begin developing highway infrastructure.
With the area already undergoing development and facilities like the city’s operations building, Canada Games Centre, residential subdivisions and more now located beyond Two Mile Hill, the city has changed since the zoning bylaw was put in place restricting drive-thrus on the highway corridor, he said.
“It’s been time for quite some time,” Hartland commented.
Coun. Laura Cabott also highlighted the changes to the city over the years, noting the 1994 zoning prohibiting drive-thrus on the highway was created for a very different reality than the Whitehorse of 2021.
“The current zoning is outdated,” she said, going on to point to sections of the city’s various plans that would support zoning for a drive-thru along the highway corridor.
The Sustainability Plan, for example, calls for a range of services for travellers and residents as well as support for a diverse economy that supports local entrepreneurs, she pointed out.
While Cabott supported the zoning change, she also made it clear she had heard and shares some of the concerns residents expressed about the possibility for too much commercial development along the highway.
She pointed out the area at Range Road is privately owned and will likely be developed whether that’s with a drive-thru or otherwise.
Cabott said the city has the ability to manage the number of drive-thrus along the highway corridor in Whitehorse.
Also weighing in on the conversation was Coun. Jocelyn Curteanu, who pointed out hybrid vehicles and the like are continuing to be developed so that carbon emissions will not be at levels they currently are coming from vehicles. She also noted the high volume of traffic that has become commonplace downtown. On the real estate front, she pointed out though there may be commercial land available downtown, it may be difficult to find a site large enough to build a drive-thru in the downtown.
After highlighting those arguments she voted with the five other council members in favour of second and third reading for the zoning change to allow the drive-thru. With the zoning in place, further planning can now move forward for the site.
If a Dairy Queen is eventually built and opened on the property as proposed, it would mark a return of the restaurant brand last seen in Whitehorse in 2007.
At that time, then-owner Lawrence Thornton was unable to find a buyer for the restaurant he had owned since 1975 and had been part of the downtown Whitehorse landscape for years before that.
Contact Stephanie Waddell at firstname.lastname@example.org