Horse association move could face hurdles

More houses and a new road could be built in Cowley Creek. These proposed changes aren't just to make room for people. They're also about horses.

More houses and a new road could be built in Cowley Creek. These proposed changes aren’t just to make room for people. They’re also about horses.

The Yukon Horse and Rider Association wants to move to the old Klondike Motorsport Association Speedway. The 24-hectare area between Cowley Creek and Mary Lake has been closed since 2004. The Yukon government owns the land.

Right now, the association has a five-hectare property in one of the later phases of Whistle Bend. Construction on that area is supposed to begin next year.

The association has known they will need to move for years. The speedway’s large oval is a good site for hosting their horse shows and clinics, and there’s direct access to the site from the Alaska Highway. But it won’t be a simple re-location, as city council heard Monday night.

Last October, city council approved the association’s conditional use of the speedway. But at the last minute, the Yukon government said the road connecting the speedway to the highway can’t be used permanently, planner Kinden Kosick told council. The speedway is at the top of a hill, and the government said the road connecting it to the highway has poor sight lines, he said.

There’s dirt piled up in front of the road right now, he said Thursday morning.

Right now, the speedway site is marked for future development. But the city planning committee wants to change the Official Community Plan and have it designated for country-residential use and recreation use.

The planning department wants to extend the road through Sockeye Place so the association can get to the speedway. It will cost about $700,000 to build the road. To cover the costs of construction, the department wants to create four or five residential lots. There are six lots in the 200 metre cul-de-sac.

Residents are concerned about how a new road and houses could impact the area’s greenspace. “That’s why people live in country residential (areas),” Jill Pangman, who lives in nearby Kokanee Place, told council. “If not, we might as well live in the city where there isn’t always greenspace.”

They’re also concerned about increased traffic going through the area.

Coun. Jocelyn Curteanu, who lives in the area, agreed that residents like the quiet. “The people who live out in that area live there because of the quality of life,” she said, calling the thought of densifying the area “mind-boggling.”

But she isn’t as concerned about the increase in traffic, Curteanu told council. The YHRA holds its events during the summer when the road isn’t very busy, she said.

Coun. Betty Irwin, who lives in Mary Lake and used to run her huskies in the speedway, said it can be hard to see when driving down the road that connects it to the highway.

The association hosts about four or five weekend events a year, said Anne Lewis, chair of the association’s development committee. They would like to host a couple more. The events typically run from 8 a.m. to 4 or 5 p.m. No horses are kept on site, except during those events.

The association values keeping the area’s greenspace and creating good relationships with the community, she said.

But the earliest the association could sign a lease with the city is next April, and that’s an “ambitious” schedule, Kosick told council. Before that can happen, the land would need to be transferred from the Yukon government to the city. Zoning changes will be needed, and the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board needs to review the project. The soonest the association could move to the new site would be in the fall or winter of 2014.

Before any of this can happen, the change to the Official Community Plan needs to be approved.

Council will vote on bringing the amendment forward next week. If it passes, the bylaw would go for first reading on Feb. 11. There would be a public meeting at Golden Horn Elementary School on Feb. 28. A public hearing on the project would be held on March 25. At the latest, the bylaw could pass on June 30.

Contact Meagan Gillmore at