Outdoor sports complex heading back to city council

One of the most polarizing issues to come before Whitehorse city council in years will make its comeback in a few weeks. Coun. Samson Hartland introduced a notice of motion at Monday’s meeting.

One of the most polarizing issues to come before Whitehorse city council in years will make its comeback in a few weeks.

Coun. Samson Hartland introduced a notice of motion at Monday’s meeting to discuss the Whistle Bend outdoor sports complex in two weeks’ time.

Hartland had said he would bring the issue back to the table during his election campaign in October.

“Yes, I’d be concerned about inheriting costs, but I weigh that against the benefits of having a facility like that in our community,” he said at the time.

“When you look at it at face value, it’s just a zoning application.”

Earlier this year, the Yukon Outdoor Sports Complex Association presented its plans to build a sports complex in the Whistle Bend subdivision to Whitehorse city council. The Yukon government had committed financially to the first phase of the project, which would have featured two full artificial turf fields, a rubberized track, bleachers and changing rooms.

The facility would have been leased to the association, which would have managed its day-to-day operations.

They also would have been on the hook for the operations and maintenance costs. According to a proposal submitted by Associated Engineering, the cost to operate two fields and one track was estimated at $50,778 per year.

Members of council raised several concerns with the project from the start. A big one is whether the city could end up on the hook if the newly formed group running the facility wound up in debt. The Yukon government has promised to financially backstop the facility’s operations, but councillors raised doubts about whether that promise would hold under future governments.

In response to council’s concerns, the government indicated it was willing to scale down and scrap the second phase of the project, which would have featured a 2,000 square-foot multi-purpose building and courts for various user groups.

But that wasn’t enough to sway a majority of councillors, who ultimately voted in late April against the zoning amendment that would have given the government permission to build the facility.

In October, YOSCA President Tony Gaw held an open house to present site-specific plans to the public.

Yesterday, he said the government was still on board to cover the costs for the first phase of the project.

“The ultimate goal would be to have council approve the re-zoning amendment this winter so we can start clearing the land and get ready for construction next summer,” he said.

“We’re all pretty excited about it. Truthfully, my wish is that when it goes back to council, it gets approved 100 per cent.

“It doesn’t make sense to me that there is opposition against it.”

Mayor Dan Curtis, one of three members of council to vote against the amendment in April, said he was “intrigued” why Hartland would bring this up for consideration now. Curtis said he’d hoped Hartland would have run the idea by council and administration beforehand, so they could have discussed the concerns that were present several months ago.

“I’ve heard nothing from the proponents in terms of assurances of covering any expenditures that’ll come forward,” Curtis said.

“Or any public input from the citizens of Whitehorse, for that matter. There’s been no correspondence for the past seven months, but he (Hartland) opted to pull the trigger and say ‘Let’s bring it back.’”

The issue will come back to council for discussion on Dec. 14, where it will vote to reconsider the re-zoning amendment.

Contact Myles Dolphin at

myles@yukon-news.com

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