Whitehorse has moved one step closer to developing the McIntyre Creek area.
City council approved HB Lanarc’s $419,617 contract to do the planning and pre-engineering work for the Porter Creek D subdivision Monday.
Those plans include the subdivision, road and bridge that will span the creek connecting Pine Street to the Alaska Highway.
The council vote was split between the old guard and the new.
Mayor Bev Buckway joined councillors Dave Stockdale, Florence Roberts and Dave Austin in voting to go ahead with the planning process.
Councillors Kirk Cameron, Ranj Pillai and Betty Irwin voted no.
The approval came over the strenuous objections of several community and conservation groups, many of which packed the council chamber with supporters in a last-ditch effort to persuade the city to reconsider the plan.
More than 50 people showed up in a repeat of last week.
“I think that the issue here is that people are not trusting the planning process,” said Karen Baltgailis, the executive director of the Yukon Conservation Society, who also spoke as a representative of the Friends of McIntyre Creek.
“Discussion has been going on for years but our values are not showing up in the reports,” she said. “Every time we suggest something, we’re told it can’t be done.”
Delegate after delegate said they felt the consultation process was seriously flawed and that their concerns were falling on deaf ears.
“The feeling is that the planners are driving the process to a foregone conclusion,” said Noel Sinclair, president of the Takhini North Community Association.
“City planners are doing a good job getting information out, but I don’t think they take some values as seriously as others,” said Mike Tribes, who spoke on behalf of the Porter Creek Community Association. “It’s because of the lenses that they wear.”
All of those groups had been part of the Porter Creek D Working Group, which collapsed last month after the city released the results of a heavily criticized wildlife study of Middle McIntyre Creek.
In recognition of the perceived bias in the consultation process, Cameron put forward a motion to delay the vote until the end of January, so more discussion could take place.
Over the last couple of weeks, Cameron reached out to several of the groups in an effort to get them back at the table.
And while he won praise for his efforts, his motion was ultimately defeated.
“I don’t think that delaying the process will bring any new information to the table,” said Stockdale. “I think we’ve bashed this around long enough and we have to come to a resolution.”
After Cameron’s motion failed, Pillai tabled one of his own.
He called for the re-formation of an expanded working group and the appointment of an independent third party to work with both community groups and the designers to rework the terms of reference for the contract.
Taking another look at the terms of reference would be an inexpensive solution and go a long way towards combating the “trust deficit” that has plagued the process, said Pillai.
“There was a breakdown here,” he said. “But we’ve got everyone back to the table and they want to work.
“I don’t want to shut the door on anybody’s fingers.”
Not surprisingly, Cameron supported Pillai’s motion.
“The only way to go forward is to prove to the public that this is an unbiased process,” he said. “We have to build a process that people trust.”
But not everyone on council was so disillusioned with the process.
“The trust I have is in HB Lanarc,” said Roberts. “Just going for more consultation is not what’s needed here.”
Council was only deciding on whether or not to go ahead with planning, she said. It’s only the next phase of development and a final decision won’t be made for some time.
When it became obvious that Pillai’s motion wouldn’t have enough votes to pass, the public gallery started to clear out.
Many of the people were visibly upset as they left the chamber.
The final vote came as no surprise, four to three in favour of moving on to the next phase.
While planning will move ahead, the decision was a step backwards for the city, said Cameron.
“We had a chance to do something better and didn’t do it,” he said.
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