A small section of the Stevens area is designated for quarrying in the latest version of the proposed Official Community Plan (OCP) for Whitehorse.
The proposal was brought forward at Whitehorse city council’s Jan. 9 meeting. It comes after council had actually removed a larger quarry designation in the area ahead after the first of two public hearings on the OCP, which sets the vision for planning in the city.
Digging for a designation
That decision to remove the natural resource extraction designation in favour of future planning was made following significant public outcry during the first public hearing. Concerns over environmental impacts, noise, dust, air pollution, potential loss of property value for area homes and impacts to agriculture were cited in arguments against it.
Because council put forward significant changes to the proposed OCP, the city held a second public hearing in November. While many residents thanked council at that hearing for taking the quarry designation out of the plan in favour of a future planning designation, the Yukon Contractors Association argued the quarry designation should remain given the significant need for gravel as the city continues to develop.
Both the Whitehorse and Yukon chambers of commerce were also on-hand in support of the contractor’s association. A representative with Chu Níikwän LP (the Kwanlin Dün First Nation’s development corporation) suggested mitigation measures could address environmental concerns and impact on neighbours.
Mélodie Simard, the city’s manager of planning and sustainability, brought the report on the second public hearing, detailing the newest changes for the Stevens area along with other suggestions for the document, to the Jan. 9 council meeting.
Simard ultimately brought forward the concept for a smaller area that could be designated for quarrying, along with plans for a study that would identify current gravel sources and their approximate lifespans in and around the city as well as possibilities for future gravel resources.
She described the proposal for the Stevens area as a “middle ground,” noting the area proposed for a quarry designation is the general area that was last put to the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board in 2020. At that time, it was estimated the site would provide gravel for up to 10 years.
The remaining portion of the Stevens area would remain as future planning with the proposed quarry portion 1.5 kilometres from the Takhini River rather than the 0.5 kilometres that had been put forward in an earlier version of the OCP.
While council members largely spoke in favour of the study, at least one member indicated he doesn’t support the quarry designation in the Stevens area.
“I don’t necessarily buy the urgency argument around Stevens quarry,” Coun. Ted Laking said, highlighting comments made by Energy, Mines and Resources Minister John Streicker in 2021 that there wouldn’t be development until at least 2025. The territory owns the land in the Stevens area east of the MacPherson subdivision.
“I think that it’s essential to get the study done, answer these questions,” Laking said. “And then if it turns out that there really is no other gravel at all, anywhere near any of these areas that need it, then the landowner can always come back and go through the amendment process that would then make this all public and allow the proposals and everything to be on the table. And then the public can provide input and all the proponents can provide input.”
While Laking highlighted Streicker’s comments in noting quarry development in the Stevens area would be years away, Coun. Dan Boyd pointed out the territorial government has also written to the city stressing the importance of the area for gravel extraction in the longer term.
“We also have this government saying that it’s really important that the city continue to identify this area for resource extraction, or some of this area for resource extraction, as they need it, the Yukon needs it, the City of Whitehorse needs it,” Boyd said.
Speaking to reporters following the meeting, Cabott said the latest proposal balances the interests in the area, acknowledging that not everybody will be “100 per cent happy.”
More changes to consider
Other potential changes to the proposed OCP, coming out of comments from the November public hearing, included goals for an accessible transportation network, limiting development in environmentally sensitive areas and emphasizing partnerships with First Nations and local groups.
While a number of changes are proposed, they are not viewed as significant enought to warrant a third public hearing.
As Simard explained in her report: “In administration’s opinion the recommended changes in this report do not merit a third public hearing as changes address feedback heard at the hearing and either clarify or mitigate concerns heard, or provide an alternative solution to achieve the proposed plan’s policy direction.”
Council will vote on whether to move ahead with second reading Jan. 16. If that’s approved, there will be a 45-day ministerial review before the plan comes back to council for third reading.
Contact Stephanie Waddell at firstname.lastname@example.org