The sound of horses’ hooves will not be heard at the old Klondike Motor Association Speedway site for at least a year. In fact, they may never be heard there at all.
On Monday night, city council unanimously decided to delay, for one year, the second reading of a bylaw that would allow the Yukon Horse and Rider Association to move to the old speedway, next to the Cowley Creek subdivision. The change, which would amend the Official Community Plan, would also allow the city to extend Sockeye Place to provide access to the site and build four or five country-residential lots along the road.
The association needs to leave its current Porter Creek site by the end of this summer to make room for Whistle Bend. The city gave the horse and rider association a conditional lease to the old racetrack last fall.
But the Yukon government later decided that access to the site from the Alaska Highway wasn’t safe. Road safety standards can only be met if the highway is reconfigured. Neither the city nor the territorial government would commit funds for that project. So the city proposed extending Sockeye Place and building four or five country-residential lots along the road. Lot sales would pay for construction.
Area residents balked at the idea of increased traffic in their quiet neighbourhood. Last month, city council voted 4-3 to delay second reading for a month so more information could be gathered.
The horse and rider association is also exploring alternatives, president Jody Mackenzie-Grieve told council.
One option is an indoor riding stable located on the Mayo Road. The property is privately owned. In the past, the association considered leasing the property, but it was too expensive.
Now, the owners are considering partnerships with the horse and rider association and other organizations to use the land.
“We see this as an opportunity worthy of investigation,” Mackenzie-Grieve told council.
Last month, an association member proposed that second reading of the bylaw be delayed for a year. Over half of eligible members voted on the motion. Nearly 90 per cent of members approved the motion, said Mackenzie-Grieve. The association will also be exploring other locations, she said.
“We see this as due diligence on the part of our organization,” said Mackenzie-Grieve.
Councillors were quick to praise the horse and rider association for its work to find a solution.
“I would like to thank (the association),” said Coun. John Streicker, who recently attended one of the association’s meetings. “It is my hope that they will find a home at the riding arena. I think it’s a good fit if they can work it out financially.”
He doesn’t think the city should provide funding for the move, but should be willing to help out in other ways, he told council.
Coun. Jocelyn Curteanu also heaped high praise on the organization. Curteanu, who lives in the Cowley Creek area, proposed the delay last month in hopes of finding a “win-win situation” and not furthering resentment among neighbourhood residents.
This is a “model” for how not-for-profit recreational groups in the city can work to be sustainable, she said. “I think this would be a prime opportunity for the Yukon Horse and Rider Association to take a leadership role in that and be successful.”
But this doesn’t mean the move won’t face rough patches going forward.
The indoor rink isn’t perfect for the organization. It doesn’t have any outdoor rinks for the association’s events, Mackenzie-Grieve said in an interview on Tuesday. And if the association moves outside of city limits, it may be harder for them to access some funds, she said.
And as Mackenzie-Grieve told council Monday, the association may not have found a new home by this time next year. That’s why the association is also asking for the first right-of-refusal at the site.
And that has neighbourhood residents concerned.
They will be forming a community association so they are better organized to respond to this situation, Stephen Burles said after the meeting.
“It’s not over,” said resident Catherine Ford-Lammers.
The area near the speedway is a popular place for viewing wildlife or walking dogs. “There’s a dog turd every three feet,” said Burles.
Residents are also concerned about costs for cleaning up the old speedway site. And extending Sockeye Place will only further damage the area around Cowley Creek, said resident Jill Pangman.
The Carcross/Tagish First Nation is already developing a subdivision on the southern part of Cowley Creek. Lots for the 32-unit subdivision should be completed by the end of July, said Nelson Lepine, director of finance and capital with the First Nation. Building could begin this fall, he said.
And there are some issues city councillors would like to see continue.
Coun. Dave Stockdale urged councillors to remember country-residential lots are still in high demand in the city.
The land in Cowley Creek “can be developed and should be developed for country residential living,” he said.
Coun. Kirk Cameron also remained steadfast in asking that the speed limit in the area be reduced.
But the government has firmly denied that as a viable option, Mike Gau, director for development services with the city, told council.
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