Public hearing set for rezoning of 107 Range Road

Petition for Dairy Queen drive-thru garners more than 1,800 signatures

Artist’s rendering of a Dairy Queen drive-thru. City of Whitehorse city council past the first reading of a rezoning ammendment that would allow for a Dairy Queen to be build on Range Road along the Alaska Highway. (Submitted)

Artist’s rendering of a Dairy Queen drive-thru. City of Whitehorse city council past the first reading of a rezoning ammendment that would allow for a Dairy Queen to be build on Range Road along the Alaska Highway. (Submitted)

Blizzards, burgers and Buster Bars, oh my!

Those are just a few of the Dairy Queen treats many Whitehorse residents may be thinking about a little more these days.

As the City of Whitehorse moves forward on the rezoning of a Range Road property to allow a drive-thru, it seems excitement is growing for a possible Dairy Queen at the location.

A petition with more than 1,800 names attached at change.org is aimed at showing support for the zoning change.

It was started Feb. 18, four days before Whitehorse city council approved first reading of the zoning amendment at its Feb. 22 meeting.

As Walter Trotter, a proponent behind the development, stated on the petition: “We are asking for the support of the community in amending the zoning of 107 Range Road to allow for the development of a Dairy Queen restaurant, with a drive-thru. A drive-thru restaurant at this location will provide a much-needed service to the travelling public, people who live and work in this area, and Whitehorse residents in general.”

Reached by phone Feb. 22, Trotter said he’s not commenting on the proposed development yet as it moves through the rezoning process.

While a zoning amendment is required for a drive-thru, the Highway Commercial zoning currently in place already allows for restaurants. That means a restaurant could go ahead on the site without a drive-thru component.

With first reading of the zoning amendment passed, the city will move into the public hearing stage ahead of second and third reading.

Before voting in favour of moving forward with first reading, a number of council members highlighted the importance of hearing from the public on the proposal.

Members also thanked administration for additional information provided to council.

Coun. Dan Boyd noted the information had pointed out regardless of where drive-thrus are located, there is an issue of idling and thus Greenhouse Gas Emissions being released into the air.

Meanwhile, Coun. Jocelyn Curteanu also commented on idling, pointing out that newer vehicles are being made to shut off if left idling for too long so it could be less of an issue in the future.

She suggested for some, a drive-thru on the highway corridor could be more convenient than heading downtown, where all Whitehorse drive-thrus are currently located.

Coun. Steve Roddick highlighted his own concerns about traffic a drive-thru could bring to the area, pointing to his own research on drive-thrus, and questioning whether the potential development would be factored into the city-wide transportation study underway.

City manager Linda Rapp said as the study moves forward it will look at factors impacting transportation throughout the city, including those along the highway.

Roddick said he still has concerns about the zoning amendment, but also wants to hear from residents about it and, thus, supported first reading.

Mayor Dan Curtis also voiced his support in moving forward with it, admitting that even six years ago his opinion on drive-thrus outside of the downtown would have likely been different.

Since then, the city has grown substantially and the mayor noted his thoughts that in some ways the downtown “has outgrown itself.”

“I’m pretty intrigued by it,” he said of the proposal.

The public hearing on the proposed drive-thru will be held March 22 with a report on the hearing to come forward April 6, ahead of second and third reading April 12.

If the zoning change goes ahead, the property would be the second site along the Alaska Highway corridor in Whitehorse to be zoned for a drive-thru.

Rezoning of the Kopper King development on the Alaska Highway was approved in 2017 though the drive-thru hasn’t been added.

That approval came from council despite a staff recommendation not to permit the drive-thru because it wasn’t in line with policies in the Official Community Plan that promote highway businesses not competing with downtown businesses; discourages vehicle idling; and further considers land use along the highway.

At that time, the five council members who voted in favour of allowing the drive-thru argued it could actually reduce greenhouse gas emissions and keep some drivers off busy downtown streets as they may choose not to head downtown with the drive-thru available on the highway. It was also argued business competition could be healthy and pointed out there had not been any concerns expressed by the business community over the proposed zoning change.

Similar issues came up in a staff report about the proposed rezoning of 107 Range Rd. with city planner Zane Hill highlighting various parts of the OCP. Included is a section specifically titled Land Use Adjacent to Highways, which states mixed-use industrial-commercial sites along the highway should provide for transportation uses needing to travel along the main corridor, as well as large-scale retail uses requiring outdoor storage.

“Moreover, it states that these uses are not meant to compete directly with businesses in downtown,” Hill said. “The intent behind this statement in the OCP has been carried forward from the 1994 OCP, of which resulted in removal of drive-thru uses from being permitted in Highway Commercial zoning.”

Hill acknowledged, however, the current OCP does not include a clear policy to guide a review of drive-thru establishments for the Range Road location.

Contact Stephanie Waddell at stephanie.waddell@yukon-news.com

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