The amount of parking at a proposed seniors housing project is raising concerns among its would-be neighbours.
At Whitehorse city council’s Jan. 13 meeting, 11 delegates spoke out against the parking reduction proposed for a five-storey, 84-unit seniors supportive living development planned for 468 Range Rd.
The presentations were part of a public hearing on the rezoning application for the development.
Also on-hand and addressing council at the public hearing was David Borud, a director with the developer, KDC Developments.
The zoning amendment would allow 25 Rhine Way (located behind 468 Range Rd. and also owned by the developer) to accommodate parking, waste management and propane tanks and for a reduction in the parking requirements.
The reduction, which was the major focus for all delegates, would decrease the parking requirement from one parking stall for every two units to one parking stall for every four units.
If all 84 units are built as planned, the reduction — if approved — would mean 21 parking stalls. Without the reduction, 42 parking spaces would be required.
Borud pointed out throughout his presentation that the development is aimed at seniors who may no longer want or are unable to live in their own home. A number of potential residents may no longer drive, and thus aren’t likely to own a vehicle, hence the proposed reduction in parking. Services such as housekeeping, home care, meals and recreation would be provided at the facility.
Other similar complexes built in Alberta have a lower proportion of parking with a facility in Red Deer having just 45.6 stalls for the 114 units, he said.
Along with the housing units, the facility would feature a commercial kitchen, courtyard and space for on-site services.
Range Road also allows for on-street parking and some of the proposed 21 parking spaces would be allocated for visitors, Borud said.
“When it comes to supported living, families are welcome,” he said.
Many who spoke live near the proposed development and highlighted just how busy Range Road has become in recent years both in terms of vehicle traffic making its way along the thoroughfare and in the number of vehicles parked along the road way.
“It’s a really congested area,” Jonathan Colby said, echoing a sentiment expressed by many others.
Those parked vehicles make it difficult for drivers coming out of their driveway or some of the side streets to properly see the road and for cyclists to navigate the street particularly in the winter.
Events at Takhini Arena, Takhini Elementary School and the nearby ball diamonds all see a long line of vehicles parked along Range Road as well as some of the side streets, council heard.
It’s a mistake to say living in a supportive living facility means not driving, Joanne Hutsul said.
“Its an assumption they drive less,” she said.
One delegate noted she had recently helped her parents move to a supported living facility where many of the other residents are in their 60s and continue to drive.
A number of delegates pointed out with no transit service on Sundays and other limitations with the bus service, even residents who choose transit on a regular basis may still want a car to get to areas transit doesn’t go or at hours transit doesn’t operate.
While some recognized the need for more housing and voiced support for a seniors housing initiative, they also stressed new developments need to have sufficient parking in place.
“We believe this project is needed,” said Frank Bachmier with the Yukon Council on Aging, adding however that officials need to recognize that seniors continue to have vehicles and drive when considering such projects.
He pointed out there’s similar issues with a number of other seniors housing developments in the city.
Near the Alexander Street seniors residence, for example, extension cords extend over sidewalks as residents find themselves having to use street parking due to a lack of parking stalls at the apartment building.
A number of seniors find themselves parking on streets around town as changes in parking requirements have reduced the number of stalls that would normally have been available at housing developments, he said.
It’s important the project is done right, Sharon Specht said, warning that there’s no going back if not enough space is designated for parking.
It’s the city that will be on the hook for fixing any problems that arise from this in the future and those issues would come back to council chambers, she pointed out.
Like others, she also encouraged the city to also consider the programming and staffing that will be offered at the site when considering parking as that could result in more vehicles coming and going from the facility.
In an interview following the public hearing, Borud said the developer wants the support of Whitehorse residents as it works on the building and they will be looking at the concerns and options available to address those concerns.
“This is our community,” he said.
A report on the public hearing will come forward to council before members vote on second and third reading of the rezoning bylaw.
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