The proposal for new homes in Cowley Creek met some opposition at Whitehorse City Council on March 25.
“This is where we live. This is not, for us, a trivial thing,” Stephen Burles, a resident of Sockeye Place, told council.
Last fall, the city approved a conditional agreement to let the the Yukon Horse and Rider Association move to the Klondike Motorsport Association Speedway from its current location in Whistle Bend.
The 24-hectare speedway is large enough to host horse shows and competitions, and has been closed since 2004.
But after the agreement was made, the Yukon government said the current access point from the speedway to the Alaska Highway can’t be used permanently, because it doesn’t have good sight lines.
In February, the city’s planning department proposed extending Sockeye Place so the association will have access to the speedway. To pay for construction, the city wants to build four or five new country residential lots along the road.
Neighbours understand the horse and rider association needs space, said Burles. But this planning process has them concerned.
“It seems to me that we’re going down a road. And we’re in a kind of funnel here, and people are pushing and pushing for this particular option. And I don’t think this is the right thing to do,” said Burles.
Residents want to live in a peaceful, quiet neighbourhood, even if it means receiving less city services, Don Rogers told council. Extending the road and adding more houses will change that, he said. And the lots aren’t necessary. “How much country residential is enough?” Rogers asked council.
And there will be safety concerns if the horse and rider association can only access the speedway through Sockeye Place, he said.
“Yukoners tend to drive like idiots,” he said, after Coun. Kirk Cameron suggested lowering the speed limits in the area to reduce those safety concerns.
But the horse and rider association isn’t planning on increasing neighbourhood traffic or noise that much, Anne Lewis, the association’s development committee chair, told council.
“I do appreciate that we are a different kind of horsepower out there,” she said, noting that the horses will be much quieter than the race cars that previously used the site. The association also wants sound barriers between the site and nearby houses, she said.
“All the things that a country residential resident appreciates is something that the YHRA appreciates,” Lewis said, noting several of the association’s members live in the area.
It’s easier for the association to apply for funds if it’s located within city limits, Lewis said. Without this money, the association can’t hold its horse shows, she added.
The lease on its current location expires at the end of the summer and if there isn’t a decision by then, their season is in jeopardy, she said.
“We just need a place to go, and it’s coming down to the wire,” member Sherillynne Himmelsbach told council.
The city received 19 written submissions on the change. Nine supported it, seven were opposed and three had concerns.
Plans to change the Official Community Plan to allow for the road extension and building of new lots passed first reading in February. The latest it could pass is June 30.
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