A subdivision proposal under city review for almost two years has made it one step closer to development.
On Monday, council approved a rezoning amendment to permit 17 country residential lots on property between Fish Lake Road and the Alaska Highway.
“We’ve gone around and around with this one for some time,” said councillor Doug Graham.
“I believe there are some things that we have to leave to the development permit stage process.”
Developers Mark Radke and Erik Nyland, of Raven’s Ridge Developments Ltd., can now proceed with the 36-hectare subdivision application.
It must come back to council for approval before development can begin.
“What he’s got to do now is his preliminary engineering to determine road location and also to more clearly define the lots,” said city manager Dennis Shewfelt on Tuesday.
“He has to do much more detailed work and design drawings to bring back for the subdivision approval.”
The property, a small portion of which was zoned environmental protection, was formerly the Copper King and Copper Queen mining claims, and includes a part of McIntyre Creek.
Conservationists and outdoor enthusiasts have argued the development will disrupt wildlife, harm environmentally sensitive areas, and interfere with cross-country ski trails.
At a council public hearing in May, more than a dozen Whitehorse residents attended to oppose the zoning amendment and 38 letters were submitted expressing concerns.
But Monday’s public hearing saw this opposition reduced to just one person – Whitehorse Cross Country Ski Club member Jim Gilpin was there once again to plead his case.
“I’m very surprised that we haven’t heard from the other people that were opposed to this development before that came in very strong at the public hearing process and haven’t been back since,” said councillor Dave Stockdale, the only one to vote against the amendment.
“I don’t know if they don’t know what’s happening or it’s just as not as serious an issue as it was before,” he said.
The ski club, concerned the development will interfere with a ski trail that cuts through the Raven’s Ridge property, had originally requested that a 0.7-hectare “recreational corridor,” be set aside to allow the trail to pass through.
Worried this request was being ignored, Gilpin presented council Monday with a compromise that the recreational corridor be only 0.15 hectares.
“It adheres to a very good planning principle and I think it would be remiss if the opportunity was lost not to set this land aside,” he said.
Gilpin also stated that after inspecting the property on Sunday, he had determined the development’s access road would not fit in the area proposed by the developer.
They should reconsider other locations for the road, he said.
Raven’s Ridge has been in negotiations with the ski club’s president Bill Curtis and Gilpin was not speaking on behalf of the ski club, said Radke.
He then reprimanded Gilpin for trespassing.
“I would like to say that I’m somewhat concerned to find that Mr. Gilpin has been attending our property,” he told council.
“We were certainly given no notice of that and certainly didn’t provide permission for that to occur.”
It was at this moment, both Stockdale and councillor Bev Buckway admitted they had accompanied Gilpin on Sunday’s reconnaissance mission.
“I apologize for that,” said Stockdale. “I didn’t realize we needed to get permission to go and look at the site.”
Radke assured council the access road would fit in its proposed location and that other options, including another bridge across McIntyre Creek and cutting through land occupied by the Copper Belt Railway, were not feasible.
“We’re confident that the road will fit in the area that’s been selected,” he said. “The road has to fit there. There is no other location where that road can go.”
In any case, these issues should be dealt with at the subdivision application stage, not at the zoning amendment stage, he said.
If the development were to proceed, less than half of the 36-hectares would be used for the subdivision, while the rest would be transferred to the public domain, assured Radke.
“That means that everybody who goes birding on McIntyre Creek can do so legally,” he said. “It means that the ski trail can be re-routed.
“If the matter doesn’t proceed, I guess I ask each and every one of those individuals that oppose it to stop and think about what the next step is,” he said.
“This is private property. That’s something that seems to be lost on the public in this town.”