Re-zoning the athlete’s village will only push back post-Games plans for the building by one month, say Yukon Housing Corp. officials.
“We’re not talking about a huge discrepancy, and we’re still talking to the city about whether the current zoning could be appropriate,” said vice-president of Yukon Housing Corporation Louise Girard on Tuesday.
The corporation will inherit the building after the Games end on March 10.
The 48-unit building will need renovations before it can become social housing, she said.
Refrigerators, stoves, kitchen islands and cabinets must be installed in the two- and three-bedroom units before tenants can move in.
As well, energy saving changes to water heaters have been proposed.
“There’s quite a lot of work to be done; we hope to be able to do that in two months,” said Girard of the retrofits, which will be paid for out of the corporation’s capital budget.
The earliest that tenants could enter the building is June, she said.
Yukon College is set to inherit the second village building and use it as student residences.
On Tuesday, Girard and other corporation officials met with city planners to discuss the impacts an application to re-zone would have on the building’s final opening date.
The land the building sits on is zoned ‘public services.’
That allows the village to be used as temporary shelters and college residences, but not as residential housing, city officials explained in previous interviews.
However, even if it is required, the re-zoning process will have a minimal impact, said Girard.
“The worst-case scenario would be that the building would be empty for, maybe, one month,” she said, noting that if the process takes six months, the buildings could still open by mid-August.
But it will be awhile before the corporation knows if it must apply for re-zoning, or not.
Its board of directors will only pin down the final use for the building at a meeting scheduled for January.
In the interim, corporation officials have asked the city to re-examine what limitations the current zoning creates for the final use of the building.
“The city will look into it again and I expect that we will meet with them again fairly shortly,” said Girard.
“If we have to start the re-zoning process, we will do that.”
Different staff negotiated the village development with the city when it was started, and that has led to some confusion between the two sides, said Girard.
“We weren’t sure, at the time, that we had to revisit the zoning,” she said. “We did get a development permit, and it had no condition attached that referred to zoning.”
The city can do little more than inform the corporation about possibilities until the final use for the building is decided, said city manager Dennis Shewfelt.
“Until they … make a determination on what they’re going to use it for — and the board hasn’t yet — we’re kind of still in a hypothetical situation,” he said, following Tuesday’s meeting.
While a decision hasn’t been made, there are clues about what it might become.
On Friday, the corporation’s board recommended Girard and other officials investigate the feasibility of using the building as seniors’ housing.
Corporation officials are set to take the Yukon Council on Aging through the building this week, and will soon meet with tenant associations of other seniors’ buildings.
As of October, 85 people were on the corporation’s waiting list for social housing. Of those, 25 are seniors, said Girard.
However, a lack of public transportation and services could undermine plans for seniors’ housing at the athletes’ village.
City zoning laws demand residential buildings be built near appropriate services.
Currently, none of Whitehorse’s seniors’ housing is built on land zoned for public services, said Shewfelt.
The zoning issue boils down to political chicanery on the part of a city employee, said Jim Kenyon, the minister responsible for the Yukon Housing Corporation, last week when questioned about the affair in the legislature.
“City staff should, perhaps, be aware of the fact that the territorial election has already concluded,” he said, alluding to the fact outgoing city planner Lesley Cabott ran for the Liberals in October’s election.
She revealed the corporation’s need to re-zone the athlete’s village land last week, noted Cardiff.
“She was doing her job as a municipal employee, giving the facts as she understood them in relation to the zoning bylaws, and his comments were totally inappropriate,” said Cardiff.
Monday, he rose on a point of privilege and demanded Kenyon apologize.
Speaker Ted Staffen ruled against Cardiff.
Cabott declined comment on Kenyon’s statement.