Protect city’s green areas: residents

Infill development, industrial designations and the Porter Creek D neighbourhood have come forward as the most controversial issues to arise out of Whitehorse's 2010 Official Community Plan.

Infill development, industrial designations and the Porter Creek D neighbourhood have come forward as the most controversial issues to arise out of Whitehorse’s 2010 Official Community Plan.

Tuesday the city released highlights from its public consultation following the release of its first draft plan in February.

The city received a total of 250 submissions from 473 individuals and groups. Many of the submissions focused on the protection of environmentally sensitive land.

Residential Infill

A plan to infill four separate areas in Riverdale has left many residents concerned about what will happen to the green spaces in their neighbourhood.

Some residents worry the proposed developments will be too close to water wells and will create traffic problems.

But the biggest concern with these infill developments is NIMBYism, said senior planner Mike Ellis.

“People are worried that it may affect their property values – whether that’s a founded concern or not,” he said.

Most contentious is a proposal to create infill housing between Boswell and Firth.

In 2005 the city tried to pass zoning bylaws to develop the area. The idea was shot down by nearby residents.

It’s an area the Riverdale Community Association has explicitly said it doesn’t want developed.

Last year, the city gave the association money to build a plan for their neighbourhood. They singled out Boswell and Firth as an area that should stay green.

“If we’re going to fund a community plan we need to listen to what came out of it,” said councillor Ranj Pillai.

But the city needs to balance the needs of people in Riverdale with those of the larger community, said Mayor Bev Buckway.

“If we say no (to the Boswell and Firth infill) then every other area in the city is going to say, ‘you didn’t do that for us.’”

The city is considering buffering the infill areas with 15-metre corridors of green space and creating parkland in the centre of Riverdale in exchange for developing the four infill areas.

Industrial amalgamation

Homeowners, particularly those in Crestview, are uneasy about a proposal to get rid of different industrial designations around the city.

The city currently wants to amalgamate its two different zoning designations – heavy industrial and service industrial – into one.

That means that heavier industries like mining and pulp and paper mills could be lumped into the same category as less intensive industries like factory outlets.

The current designations are too restrictive for prospective developers, said Ellis.

“Right now there’s nowhere for heavy industry to go,” he said.

But residents in Crestview are worried that nearby Couland, which features light industry now, could soon be home to heavier industrial.

A buffer anywhere from 200 to 500 metres would still separate the two areas, said Ellis.

All requests for heavy industry would still need to go through the zoning process and could have larger buffers, he added.

But houses not part of a subdivision, such as homes in the McLean Lake area, wouldn’t be protected from a buffer.

“It depends on what is considered housing – a cluster of homes or single homes,” said Ellis.

“The city wouldn’t have to really worry about one-off (homes),” said planning manager Mike Gau.

Porter Creek D

Development of the Porter Creek D neighbourhood in the McIntyre Creek area could affect nearby wetlands, say concerned residents.

People sent comments to the city asking planners to clearly define the Porter Creek D neighbourhood.

The subdivision was suggested in 2005 but was voted down by citizens concerned about development in the area.

The Kwanlin Dun First Nation would like the city to do more studies before it goes ahead with the development, said Ellis.

They’re concerned about how the development could affect nearby wildlife. It’s a worry shared by the Friends of McIntyre Creek and the Yukon Conservation Society. Both groups would like to see a minimum of 250-metre buffers from the river for migrating animals.

The city plans to develop Porter Creek D, a boot-shaped neighbourhood following the curve of McIntyre Creek, after the Whistle Bend subdivision has been filled out.

The two new neighbourhoods would require a traffic crossing through McIntyre Creek, said city engineer Wayne Tuck. The idea to build an extension from Pine Street has been highly contentious.

Residents have demanded clarity from the city on how it will build road and utility corridors in environmentally sensitive areas.

The 2002 community plan says significant wildlife corridors and important water bodies will be protected from incompatible development. But developments will eat into these green spaces under the new plan.

City councillors will have another meeting to discuss the public’s comments in April. The Official Community Plan could be introduced as a bylaw in council as early as May 17. That will be followed by a public hearing.

Contact Vivian Belik at