New agreement to spur lot development in Whitehorse

After lost time and money on failed residential development in subdivisions around Whitehorse, the city and the territory have struck a deal on…

After lost time and money on failed residential development in subdivisions around Whitehorse, the city and the territory have struck a deal on land-development.

Under the newly drafted protocol, the two governments will split the work of designing, building and selling new residential lots in the city.

The city’s responsible for planning and public consultation.

The territory will do detailed design work, construction and disposition of developed lots, pending council approvals.

But along with its new responsibilities, the city won’t have to shoulder any new expenses.

The aim is to reduce bureaucratic confusion and ensure there’s always a two-year supply of lots on hand.

“It think it’s going to lessen the confusion,” said mayor Ernie Bourassa.

It will also give citizens more input into lot design, he said.

The protocol only kicks in on Crown land, where the territory is the developer of the lots, said city planning manager Lesley Cabott.

It does not apply to private developers.

The idea to develop the protocol came following the failed plan for a 135-lot subdivision in Whitehorse Copper last year, where the territory faced resident opposition to a proposed road extension to the Alaska Highway.

The territory took a lot of heat from residents in the initial planning process and more when the matter came before council, said Bourassa.

The same confusion caused the city to put the brakes on an infill development in Porter Creek in November that would have seen 280 lots built.

Things broke down when, after spending nine months planning the subdivision in the McIntyre Creek area, city councillors realized the territory had two sets of its own plans for the same chunk of land.

Today, city lot development remains at a standstill and the territory is still holding consultations on what to do with the McIntyre Creek area.

The five-page agreement was drafted by the city in consultation with Community Services and Energy, Mines and Resources.

Next week, council will decide whether to endorse the document.

Resources minister Archie Lang refused to comment on the protocol until the city responds to the drafted agreement.

n WONKY BUDGETS

Games centre needs

time to find its legs

The devastating budget forecast for the Canada Games Centre is “a worst-case scenario,” said Canada Games Centre director Bernie Van Hooft.

Results from the first quarter of the city’s fiscal year, released at this week’s council meeting, predicted the centre would fall $773,000 behind projections by the end of 2006.

Revenues from the $42-million complex are projected to fall $549,000 under budget, while expenses will be $224,000 higher than anticipated.

The revenues are short for three reasons, said Van Hooft.

The centre hasn’t found a major sponsor, all the available food and retail spaces haven’t been rented and pass sales are lower then expected, said Van Hooft.

“We’re still trying to fill the food service and the retail spaces in the facility, but because of a lack of interest and a very cautious business community, we haven’t filled those spaces yet,” said Van Hooft.

“The other area we’re short on is sponsorship, we’ve had no major sponsors so far,” said Van Hooft, noting that if one comes through this year it could add $50,000 to the budget.

And, this year, the centre expected to sell 1,710 adult monthly passes each month. But, actually sold 1,884 monthly passes in January, 1,462 in February, 1,526 in March and 1,076 in April.

Lower pass sales account for about 60 per cent of the revenue shortfall, said Van Hooft.

All of which were written into this year’s budget.

But when the sponsors, tenants and users didn’t materialize, Van Hooft decided to make a pre-emptive strike and have council re-write the budget.

“We just need more time to work out the operating costs of the facility.

“It’s happened in the other multiplexes in Alberta — every one of them has had to sort things out in the first year,” he added.

The city hopes to ink an agreement with a food service vendor who plans to move into the centre next month, said Bourassa.

And Van Hooft hopes to draft a new agreement with Peak Fitness to broaden the draw of the wellness centre by adding aerobics classes and new exercise equipment.

“I think it’s really premature to judge the quality of the forecasting and budgeting numbers until we’ve had a chance to go through this for two or three years,” said Bourassa.

According to a biennial city survey released last week, 76 per cent of respondents said they use the centre.

Councillors and the mayor will decide how to account for this year’s projected shortfall on Monday. (LC)

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