McIntyre Creek is going to get a whole lot more crowded in the future.
The city and two private landholders, ATCO and Icy Waters Incorporated, want to build three new housing developments in the environmentally sensitive wetland.
Wednesday, city planners unveiled the first draft of the 2010 Official Community Plan, a master document that will guide the city’s development over the next 20 years.
More than 200 people attended the session.
Among the 58 proposed changes to the document are two suggestions to create subdivisions around McIntyre Creek.
This despite planners’ assertions they want to turn the area into a 3700-hectare park and that protection of significant wildlife corridors and important water bodies is a “priority.”
There are conflicting ideas in the plan, said Valleyview resident Erik Blake who was at the public information session on Wednesday.
Take policy change 1.1.1. It states the city will protect wildlife corridors and water bodies, but may also cross these corridors “to facilitate growth away from undisturbed wildlife corridors.”
Planners don’t deny they are caught in a tug-of-war between developing and preserving this area.
McIntyre Creek has long been a battleground for environmentalists, and politicians who want to see the area developed to lessen the city’s housing crunch.
In 2006, about 2,500 residents signed a petition demanding any new housing developments accommodate sensitive greenspaces.
It was prompted by the city’s proposal to develop the Porter Creek Expansion or Porter Creek D as it is commonly called.
After years of controversy the plan fell off the table.
Now the city wants to resurrect it.
The proposal surprised some who attended the information session.
“The (McIntyre) wildlife corridor has to be preserved, it’s unique,” said John Quinsey.
“I can’t think of any other city that has that type of animal migration in it.
“Even now, you don’t see as many moose and bears moving through it as you did 20 years ago.”
The size of Porter Creek D has also expanded, said Tami Hamilton who is studying the area for her master’s thesis.
“I’m shocked. It looks twice the size it was originally expected to be,” said Hamilton, pointing to a map.
“The city wants to give us a 3700-hectare park in exchange for giving this area up.”
She’s worried that the boot-shaped development, which curves along McIntyre Creek, will scare migrating animals away and affect salmon runs.
Plans for Porter Creek D are still fuzzy, but it may accommodate up to 1,400 people in the future.
The idea is to develop the subdivision only after Whistle Bend has been filled out, said planning manager Mike Gau.
“If we don’t do Porter Creek D, then we will need to develop other areas much sooner,” he said.
That includes the McLean Lake area and land north of Long Lake, which is largely undisturbed.
“It’s a tough decision to make – to go into certain areas,” he said.
And the configuration of the city, with rivers running from east to west and mountains from the north to the south means development will sometimes clash with protection efforts, he added.
The Porter Creek D development, when built, would include 100-metre buffers from the creek.
These areas have been considered most environmentally sensitive to the McIntyre Creek area, according to wildlife reports, said Gau.
But even that didn’t convince Blake.
“Years ago the city allowed an access road to be put in along McIntyre Creek for the Raven’s Ridge area,” he said Wednesday evening.
“That road is literally two to three metres from the creek.
“They’ve already disregarded that policy, so it’s a little discouraging.”
A proposal by ATCO and Icy Waters Incorporated to develop land around the fish hatchery site and Kopper King has added to the concern.
The two private landowners want to open up those areas, considered particularly sensitive, for country residential homes.
The city couldn’t stop them from developing even if they tried.
“If we tried to put that land under green designation they would have legal grounds to say that the city must buy that land,” said Gau.
And expropriating that land isn’t something city councillors are interested in doing.
If the plan goes ahead, the city’s environmental regulations will still have to be upheld, he added.
The city is accepting input on all the Official Community Plan proposals until the first week of March.
Documents can be accessed from the city’s website at www.whitehorse.ca.
Contact Vivian Belik at