A change to the city’s Official Community Plan will be required before further work can continue on an area anticipated to be part of the Whistle Bend neighbourhood.
At Whitehorse city council’s Oct. 19 meeting, planning manager Mélodie Simard brought forward a recommendation that a proposed OCP amendment move forward that would designate a 56.3-hectare piece of land, known as area C, for urban residential use.
The land, currently designated in the OCP as green space, had previously been intended to be used by the Yukon Horse and Rider Association, which has since moved to another location outside of the city.
“The association and the city determined that a dense, urban neighbourhood was not the best fit for its purposes and the association dropped its interest in this land,” Simard stated in her report to council. “The subject land now provides an opportunity for neighbourhood development.”
Area C is one of three areas (A, B and C) within the Whistle Bend neighbourhood identified for future planning beyond the initial seven phases of the neighbourhood that have been planned and developed or are in the process to be developed.
While areas A and B are already designated in the OCP for urban residential use, area C is currently designated as green space and therefore requires a designation change to urban residential before residential development could happen there.
A land use plan attached to Simard’s report shows lower density development — single detached and duplex homes — are primarily envisioned for the area with some portions that would be used for higher density housing — townhouses and apartments. There would also be an area for a park and a greenbelt would wrap around most of the area. There’s also a public utility easement.
Answering questions from council members, Simard explained that lower density housing was favoured for area C because it is on the further outskirts of the neighbourhood.
As the city looks at the three future development sites for Whistle Bend, area C is expected to be developed following Phase 7 of the neighborhood. Development of the other two future areas would follow.
“Priority was given to this area over areas A and B for many reasons, including infrastructure cost and cost recovery potential, complexity of the project and impacts on the neighbourhood,” Simard said.
The Yukon government is anticipating moving to detailed engineering of the area in early 2021 “to ensure there is a continuous supply of available building lots in the coming years.
“Per council’s 2020 housing strategic priority, the city has committed to continue to work with YG to help residents attain housing. Whistle Bend remains the city’s main growth.”
The city is currently rewriting it’s OCP, but it’s proposed this change go through ahead of that in order to ensure lots be available as soon as possible.
Coun. Steve Roddick said he’s pleased to see the proposal come forward in the interest of the lot supply. He also suggested that adding more residential homes with only one access in and out of the area could make for a lot of traffic along Casca Boulevard.
Simard noted the possibility to consider a second access in the future, but also said that would be a separate matter to deal with.
Meanwhile Coun. Laura Cabott questioned whether there’s a guarantee that the land is stable for residential development given that it had been previously used as a sewage treatment site — the Porter Creek lagoons.
Simard acknowledged the former use of the area, but also noted the OCP change would be the first part in a lengthy process to explore using the land for residential use. After the OCP change, efforts would focus on geotechnical work on that.
If council approves first reading of the OCP change for area C at its Oct. 26 meeting, a public hearing on the change would follow on Nov. 23.
An administrative report on the public hearing would then be presented to council on Nov. 30, ahead of second reading coming forward Dec. 7.
With a required ministerial review that can take up to 45 days, it’s expected third reading would not come forward until about Feb. 8, 2021.
Zoning and subdivision would also be required for work on the site to move forward.
“The extension of the Whistle Bend neighbourhood into area C meets the objectives of the OCP for development that uses existing servicing infrastructure, promotes active transportation and transit use, and includes residential, commercial and institutional uses to create complete communities,” Simard stated in her report.
Contact Stephanie Waddell at firstname.lastname@example.org