Some Whitehorse residents are hung up on the design of a proposed 10-unit townhouse complex at 51 Keewenaw Drive.
On June 18, Melodie Simard, manager of planning and sustainability with the City of Whitehorse, presented council with public feedback on the proposal, which requires an amendment to be re-zoned from CN (neighbourhood commercial) to RM (residential multiple housing).
“Concern was raised for the unattractive buildings portrayed,” reads the report, though it also went on to state the renderings are “a useful tool for assessing the proposed scale and massing of the intended development, but should not be considered a final design.”
Coun. Dan Boyd said he was surprised at the amount of feedback the application has received.
At the June 11 council meeting, two delegates spoke to council opposing the project, with one of them calling the building an “eyesore.”
As well, nine written submissions were received by the city. One was neutral, one was in support, and seven either raised concerns or were opposed to the development. Reasons included loss of the commercial space the lot was originally zoned for, a lack of onsite parking, increased traffic and reduced property values.
The letter supporting the project said the townhouse complex would add attractive, dense and affordable units to the neighbourhood, and help the area grow.
On June 18, Boyd agreed the renderings do look like a collection of coloured boxes.
Coun. Betty Irwin wondered aloud if there are any architects in the world with a degree of imagination and, if so, why that doesn’t “trickle up to Whitehorse.”
Boyd asked Simard if it was possible to determine design before zoning changes are approved.
Simard said there are some design criteria for multiple housing units. That criteria states the facade must incorporate at least two of four features including a primary building entrance, front porch and/or balconies, variation in facade depth, and variation in siding and trims material and/or colour.
Boyd said it would be nice to have some sense of what the architecture will look like. Otherwise, he said, people have to take it on faith that the guidelines in place will produce something nice.
“Those renderings are actually a disservice to what might be built there,” said Boyd.
“We can do much better it’s just that this isn’t the juncture at which we decide.”
Mayor Dan Curtis pointed out that it’s not council’s place to tell developers what colour to paint their developments.
“I’m feeling kind of weirded out because I think if … we drive through our community, there’s definitely architectural buildings that I’m happy with and some that I think are not my tastes … if you ask 10 people what they think about my house, I’m sure nine of them would think it’s ugly and one, like my wife, might think it’s beautiful.”
The amendment will proceed to second and third reading on June 25.
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