Planning for Porter Creek D has been put on pause.
On Monday, Whitehorse city council unanimously voted to delay planning for the proposed subdivision in the middle McIntyre Creek area until lots in the seventh phase of Whistle Bend are released.
This may not happen for another 10 years, said Mike Gau, director of development services.
Originally, city staff recommended no planning happen until 75 per cent of Whistle Bend lots were sold. Since different phases of Whistle Bend may be zoned differently, this change gives future councils more certainty about when they may choose to start planning, said Gau.
Council’s decision also cancels a contract, worth nearly $42,000, that the city signed with Golder Associations to develop the project.
Some councillors don’t want to see development happen in this area – ever.
Coun. Betty Irwin voiced her disapproval with some help from Joni Mitchell’s song Big Yellow Taxi. Building houses in middle McIntyre Creek is like paving “paradise to put up a parking lot,” she said.
The area is a treasure in the middle of Whitehorse, she said. “If we disturb it, if we pave it over, we are going to lose it forever.”
Irwin wished city staff had recommended removing Porter Creek D from the city’s growth strategy, she said.
“We can never replace it if we keep planning for it, and I feel that every step in planning pushes us forward to this inevitable decision,” she said before the vote.
In December, residents filled city chambers to attend a public meeting about Porter Creek D. Everyone who spoke opposed housing development. Most wanted to conserve the area, although some said it could potentially be used for the college.
City staff recommended the delay in planning partly because there have been more private housing developments in Whitehorse recently.
There’s a tension between maintaining greenspace and building houses, said Coun. John Streicker.
Only planning can bring clarity, he said. It could allow for the middle McIntyre Creek area to be designated as a park, he said. Or the area could be set aside for greenspace, the college, or for some houses in the future.
“But it’s not the moment. I don’t think that we have the trust of the community at this moment to go into that planning process,” he said.
Coun. Mike Gladish was disappointed that council voted to delay planning. The decision is a good compromise, but it “puts us back another eight or 10 years in the planning process,” said Gladish. He wanted to see affordable housing built in the area.
But Porter Creek D doesn’t seem like a place for high-density affordable housing, said Coun. Jocelyn Curteanu after the meeting. Curteanu would rather not see the area developed, but she’s “a realist,” she said. This delay can give the city more time to consider how to address Whitehorse’s housing needs, she said.
“If it comes right down to it, and we’re looking at people who are homeless versus, you know, trying to preserve this area, and if they could possibly house those people in that area, then I could see that becoming a priority. But I’m hoping that will never happen during my term,” said Curteanu.
Coun. Kirk Cameron was away Monday night and attended the meeting via teleconference. But his phone connection was patchy and he was unable to vote on the recommendation.
Conservationists aren’t breathing an indefinite sigh of relief.
“We’re relieved that the pressure is off, and that middle McIntyre Creek is not being threatened by Porter Creek D for the next few years,” said Karen Baltgailis, executive director of the Yukon Conservation Society.
Porter Creek D would “basically rip the heart out of McIntyre Creek Park,” said Baltgailis. Because many animals, including moose and bears, use the area as a wildlife corridor, it’s “not appropriate” for housing, she said.
“If you end up putting a housing subdivision there, what you’re going to end up is with conflicts between bears and people, because then you’re going to have garbage and pets, and all sorts of things. You can’t just sort of tell a bear, ‘Sorry, this is no longer a wildlife corridor.’”
The society wanted council to remove the area from any future planning, she said. It will be working to have the middle McIntyre Creek area declared a park.
Dorothy Bradley, president of Friends of McIntyre Creek, agrees. She’d like to see picnic tables and a parking area so people from across the city can enjoy the wilderness views. She’d like middle McIntyre Creek to “stay for future generations, and not just eight years,” said Bradley.
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