Greenbelt referendum gets green light

It’s official: More than 2,000 residents want to preserve city greenspaces. And politicians aren’t happy about it.

It’s official: More than 2,000 residents want to preserve city greenspaces. And politicians aren’t happy about it.

“Where do you see development happening?” councillor Doug Graham asked delegates from the Porter Creek Community Association on Monday night, shortly after officials declared a local petition valid.

And here things get complicated.

In November, a grassroots effort spearheaded by Carole Bookless, president of the Porter Creek Community Association, led to the successful petition.

Bookless’s petition demanded the city draft a bylaw that ensures each subdivision has a greenspace plan.

It also stipulated that any change to a greenspace designation in the Official Community Plan had to be put to a referendum.

Now the petition is official, city officials must draft a bylaw.

But whether the bylaw is put in force, or not, is in doubt.

City council has two choices: it can roll over and adopt the bylaw, or it can spend $13,000 and put it to a referendum.

Councillors fear the bylaw will stymie much-needed housing development in the city.

But politicians forced the referendum by not listening to residents, Bookless told council this week.

“When you have a vote, you have a say,” she said.

In pushing for development in Porter Creek greenspace, the city repeatedly refused to listen to residents, said Jocelyn Laveck, who canvassed with the petition door to door.

She has spoken with hundreds of residents from across the city who feel politicians are not looking out for their interests, she told council, reading from a statement.

The city now has six weeks to draft the bylaw. Then it has to decide what to do with it.

Bookless submitted the petition on February 3 and city representatives spent a week sorting through names to remove duplicate, incomplete and unverifiable names.

All signatories had to be registered voters.

Of the 2,566 signatures submitted for the first question, the city found 2,460 likely to be valid. And of the 2,489 submitted for the second, the city ruled 2,389 were probably valid.

That’s hundreds more than the 2,000 required by the Municipal Act.

Nine out of 10 people approached signed the petition, said Bookless.

“We’ve had such strong support because it’s happening to everyone. Every subdivision that we’ve gone into, someone had a story about an area — a big area or a small area — that was protected and then the city changed it.”

The referendum will run like an election. It will be citywide and binding.

Although there is a municipal election planned for October, the two cannot be put on the same ballot, said administrative director Robert Fendrick.

Because the Municipal Act dictates that the city work under a strictly legislated time frame, the referendum must happen in July.

Bookless began the petition on November 8.

She had 90 days, until February 5, to collect signatures and return the it to the city, which has eight weeks to draft the bylaw.

The referendum must happen within 90 days of the date council gives the bylaw first reading.

So, the referendum must happen in July, said Fendrick.

That referendum will cost around $13,000. A municipal election costs $41,700.


Government to

balance interests in greenbelt’s future

The Yukon government is attempting a feat of epic proportions: balancing the will of residents, the city and Yukon College on a disputed 320-hectare swath of land in Porter Creek.

Over the past three weeks, Community Services met with the four major stakeholders in the area — the city, Yukon College, the Ta’an Kwach’an Council and the Kwanlin Dun First Nation, said Yukon community development director Eric Magnuson Tuesday.

Next week, it will host three open houses to gather public feedback.

“We’re trying to find a compromise where all interests can be satisfied,” said Magnuson.

The area sits between the Yukon College campus and existing development in Porter Creek, bordered by Rabbit’s Foot Canyon on the west and Mountainview Drive on the east.

In December, confusion caused the city to halt its 280-lot infill development after realizing the territory had two sets of plans for the same area.

Education minister John Edzerza committed to endowing the land to Yukon College, according to college president Sally Webber.

Community Services minister Glenn Hart told the legislature he would hold consultations on having the area protected.

There will be two maps available at next week’s meetings — one where people can indicate their interests and another that shows the stakeholders’ interests.

“We heard from the First Nations on protecting (McIntyre Creek) as a salmon habitat and a corridor through the area for wildlife,” said Magnuson.

And other interests, like archeological sites that cannot be mapped out, will also be considered.

“We’re going to present the different interests and collect feedback on what we heard, then we’ll present them to cabinet and cabinet will make a decision,” said Magnuson.

The three public open houses will be held: Tuesday, February 28 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Yukon College; Thursday, March 2 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Takhini Elementary School and Saturday, March 4th from 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. at Porter Creek Secondary School. (LC)