The rezoning of a Range Road property may soon take off, allowing for more commercial development along the roadway.
The proposal would see 115 Range Road – owned by Trans North Helicopters – move from its current airport zoning to highway commercial.
As city planner Karmen Whitbread explained in a report to Whitehorse city council Nov. 22, the company has stopped using the site for their helicopter business and is instead leasing helipads at the Erik Nielsen Whitehorse International Airport.
In fact, the site can no longer be used by helicopters to take off and land.
“NAV Canada has confirmed that the subject site no longer meets the requirements for an H2 or H3 helipad, which are typically used for tour and other smaller helicopter uses,” Whitbread said. “NAV Canada also stated the area is too congested with existing businesses to be a suitable location for a busy helipad, as they would be exposed to noise and hazards. Therefore, the location is no longer desirable as a helipad due to the changing context of the area.”
The city’s operations building was constructed next door along with a number of other developments coming into the area in recent years.
The placement of a wash bay for the operations building was at the centre of a dispute between Trans North and the city in 2019 with Trans North arguing the placement of the wash bay made it unlikely aircraft would be able to fly out of the Range Road base due to regulations that require aircraft to be 1,000 feet above buildings and traffic when they fly.
The city argued it had gone through all the proper permitting for the new building, including the placement for the wash bay.
Trans North eventually announced plans to move closer to the Whitehorse airport.
In his report to council, Whitbread said the property is designated in the current Official Community Plan for industrial/commercial uses. The proposed highway commercial zoning would align with the designation.
The city is also in the midst of updating the OCP with an emerging directions document, published from the work done thus far, including a proposal that would encourage utilizing under-used land in the area.
“The proposed rezoning would facilitate intensification of the site by providing for more flexible and intensive land uses,” Whitbread said.
The current airport zoning is “highly restrictive to airport and aircraft sales and service uses.”
Also cited was a 2020 commercial industrial land study that identified a need for another 32 hectares of mixed-use commercial/industrial land in the city by 2040 and recommended intensifying commercial/industrial sites.
“The proposed CH – Highway Commercial zone permits a range of commercial uses primarily along arterial roadways,” Whitbread said. “Therefore the proposed CH – Highway Commercial zone fits with the context of the surrounding uses, zones, and adjacent highway and will allow for intensification of this highway commercial area.”
Whitbread also described the airport zoning as “outdated” given that it can no longer be used as a helipad.
If first reading is passed Nov. 29, a public hearing will be held Jan. 17.
Under questioning by Coun. Kirk Cameron, Whitbread confirmed that if first reading is approved, property owners within 100 metres would be formally notified of the public hearing.
A report on the hearing would come forward to council Feb. 7 with council voting on second and third reading Feb. 14.
Contact Stephanie Waddell at firstname.lastname@example.org