The City of Whitehorse has released its 2020 commercial and industrial land study, but it’s unlikely there will be a lot of work on the 30-plus recommendations until after a new Official Community Plan is adopted as it is that document that designates various land uses. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)

More commercial/industrial land needed, study shows

Council members express concern over economic impacts

The City of Whitehorse has released its 2020 commercial and industrial land study, but it’s unlikely there will be a lot of work on the 30-plus recommendations until after a new Official Community Plan is adopted as it is that document that designates various land uses.

And that has some council members worried.

As Coun. Dan Boyd pointed out at council’s Sept. 8 meeting where the study was presented, it will likely be another year before the new OCP is adopted.

“I’m concerned that’s time we don’t really have,” he said after pointing out the study shows a shortage of commercial/industrial land totalling about 40 hectares.

“It’s hurting this economy, it’s hurting jobs and it’s hurting growth,” he said.

If there’s anything the city can do in the interim that would move land availability forward while the OCP is being worked on, it should be done, he said.

Councillors Samson Hartland and Laura Cabott expressed similar concerns with Cabott describing the shortage as a “serious situation.”

Hartland said that it would be good for the city to be able to chart its own course for commercial/industrial land, though he does appreciate the efforts of the private sector to bring land to market.

His comments came after Mike Gau, the city’s director of development services, pointed out that although OCP work will need to be done before more industrial land would be made available through the city, there are private developers working on projects that would bring commercial/industrial land to market.

A change in the current OCP designation for a 7.3-hectare parcel of land inside the former tank farm could make that space available for commercial/industrial development.

Council is scheduled to vote on second reading of that change Sept. 14, though zoning changes and subdivision development agreements will need to be in place before any development could happen there.

Gau also pointed to Chu Níikwän Development Corporation’s plans that could eventually see lots made available in the Tlingit Street area.

He noted there are a number of steps that will need to happen before lots are available through either project.

Coun. Steve Roddick also questioned will be done to ease short-term demand with planner Erica Beasley stating that within the more than 30 recommendations outlined are a number of initiatives that could lead to infill lots being developed to help with the supply.

As the city focuses now on communications to ensure stakeholders and the public know the plan is out and available via the city’s website, Beasley said there will be efforts underway in the new future to focus on looking closer at the potential for those infill areas and how to bring lots to market.

Other short-term initiatives outlined could see the city consider an incentive policy to encourage cleaning up older industrial properties that currently function as “junkyards” in the city; working with other governments and private interests to implement the relocation of heavy industry from Marwell, which was outlined in the city’s 2018 Marwell Plan as well as exploring options for subdivision in that neighborhood to bring new industrial lots online sooner; and exploring the potential for lot expansions, which would need to be reviewed at the neighbourhood level.

Longer-term efforts would look at where new commercial/industrial areas could be added after infill has been done and working with other governments on those plans.

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

Whitehorse city council

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