Whitehorse city planners laid out the case for building a subdivision near McIntyre Creek at a council meeting Monday.
The plans for the Porter Creek D subdivision also include a road and bridge that would extend Pine Street over the creek and connect it with the Alaska Highway.
Only one of the six people who appeared before council to speak on the issue supported the development.
“Housing is the number-one issue,” said Rick Karp, president of the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce, the lone voice of approval.
With a severe lack of affordable rental housing, business in Whitehorse is having trouble attracting and retaining employees, he said. “The city needs to control development to restore mobility in the housing market,” said Karp.
But Councillor Betty Irwin questioned how much of an effect Porter Creek D would have on the city’s affordable housing stock.
“It’s estimated that there will be 290 homes, single-family units,” she said. “How much of an impact will that have on affordable housing in the city?”
Karp had to wait for the applause to subside before he could respond.
“It’s a step in the right direction,” he said. “The Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation is saying we need hundreds of single-family homes. We need as much housing as we can get and Porter Creek D is part of that.”
And while McIntyre Creek is an environmentally sensitive area, only a small part of it – 18 per cent – is being proposed for development, said Karp. “We need to mitigate environmental impacts but not stop development.”
Mike Tribes, representing the Porter Creek Community Association, said after what happened with Whistle Bend, he’s skeptical about the city’s ability to keep its promises.
“Whistle Bend has become a bulldozed wasteland,” he said. “How can we be assured that development will go as planned and that the buffers will be maintained? Once it’s developed we can’t go back.”
The Yukon Conservation Society, which remains opposed to the development, softened its stance somewhat.
“There is probably some room for compromise,” said Karen Baltgailis, executive director of the society.
However, she worried that if even limited development starts it might be hard to rein it in.
Next week the city is scheduled to vote on whether or not to go ahead with the initial planning.
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