Crystal Schick/Yukon News file Whitehorse downtown as seen from a flight leaving the city on April 28. Whitehorse 2040 is being drafted as the city’s guiding document to development over the next 20 years.

Housing tops residents’ concerns ahead of Whitehorse Official Community Plan

What We Heard document calls for more compact development in existing neighbourhoods

Whitehorse residents continue to be concerned about housing in the city, according to the latest document released ahead of the next Official Community Plan (OCP).

Whitehorse 2040 is being drafted as the city’s guiding document to planning throughout Whitehorse over the next 20 years.

It’s being done in four stages. Stage 2 was focused largely on extensive consultation sessions with stakeholders and the public. It wrapped up in October with the release of a What We Heard document.

The 29-page document details the responses the city received to an online workbook as well as in-person events that were held to hear what residents thought about the city’s next OCP. All told, 850 residents took part in the Phase 2 sessions.

Housing and where to put new housing continues to be a major concern for residents.

Denser neighbourhoods were preferred over increased sprawl with 67 per cent of respondents to the workbook stating the city should consider denser housing developments near neighbourhood cores (such as grocery stores and other such services), with 57 per cent suggesting it should be along transit routes and busier streets.

A total of 51 per cent agreed with allowing more density on existing lots by changing the zoning.

Meanwhile, just 25 per cent suggested focusing on building new subdivisions with 17 per cent in favour of infill development happening on green space lots within existing neighbourhoods.

While residents indicated a preference for developing existing areas over creating entirely new areas for homes in the city, the city also included a question about where new development should occur if it were to happen, noting that while development in existing neighbourhoods is preferred, new areas should be considered.

At 49 per cent, the most popular location for that was south of Copper Ridge, with 29 per cent suggesting north of Long Lake. Meanwhile, 23 per cent remained adamant about not developing new areas, arguing the city should focus on existing areas and another 21 per cent spoke in favour of going south of Porter Creek, or Porter Creek D as it’s called.

“The public could also suggest other locations. Notable responses included the Tank Farm, near Yukon College, the airport (by relocating it) and First Nation settlement parcels,” the document reads. “There were a notable number of responses that opposed or had concerns with developing some of those areas (e.g. Long Lake and Porter Creek D).”

As for what type of housing residents want to see, 70 per cent called for green building design, 62 per cent wanted development to be transit-oriented with 60 per cent calling for it to be accessible and age-friendly. A further 41 per cent called for flexibility in meeting zoning requirements and 37 per cent for a focus on design and aesthetics with 34 per cent wanting maximum size limits.

Among some other suggestions for the city to focus on: affordable housing measures, encouraging smaller homes, mixed-use zoning, rental housing, making sure there’s a mix of unit sizes within buildings, using fire-resistant building materials and having building regulations that respond to climate change.

The document, available on the city’s website, goes on to highlight more suggestions including those for particular neighbourhoods.

Phase 3, which will start early in 2020 and also include engagement sessions, will focus on producing a draft plan.

After the draft plan is reviewed and comments received, staff will work towards a final OCP to present to council for adoption later in 2020.

City planner Mike Ellis did not respond to requests for comment on the plan.

Contact Stephanie Waddell at stephanie.waddell@yukon-news.com

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