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Rezoning proposed for downtown Whitehorse property

Rezoning would allow for downtown suite at 604 Black St.
The property at 604 Black Street in Whitehorse on May 5. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

A zoning change could pave the way to allow another rental suite in downtown Whitehorse and possibly more in the future.

City planner Hannah McDonald brought forward the proposed zoning change at council’s May 4 meeting, noting it would see the side and rear yard setbacks at 604 Black Street reduced.

The side yard setback on the southwest side of the property would decrease from 1.5 metres to 1.2 metres, while the rear yard set back would decrease from three metres to two metres.

The change would allow for the proposed suite to be built over the garage on the property.

“The existing garage currently meets the accessory structure setback requirements, 0.6 m for both the side and rear yards,” McDonald stated in her report to council.

“However, once a dwelling is added as a second storey the garage transitions from an accessory structure to a principal use structure. This means that the new dwelling construction would have to respect the principal use setbacks of 1.5 metres (side yard) and 3.0 metres (rear yard).”

With three living units inside the single detached home on the property, the suite proposed would be the fourth housing unit on the site. Under the residential downtown zoning that’s the maximum number of units for the property.

McDonald pointed out it was in 2011 the city updated the zoning bylaw to allow garden suites such as the one proposed, in an effort to increase the amount of affordable and rental housing in Whitehorse.

A number of property owners have looked into converting garages to garden suites and found similar issues around setbacks.

“These property owners built their accessory structures close to lot lines because the zoning bylaw allowed it, but this is now preventing them from adapting these structures into garden suites,” she said.

“If the rezoning at hand is approved, council could also direct administration to examine broader changes that would allow more property owners to convert accessory structures into garden suites.”

Melodie Simard, the city’s planning and sustainability manager, told council later in the meeting a broader review of the zoning bylaw will take place after the new Official Community Plan is drafted and a change in the overall zoning for such properties could be considered then.

Alternatively, council could direct administration to bring forward the change on its own. It was felt this individual application would be a good opportunity to explore the possibility, Simard said.

Though the garage could be moved to meet the current setbacks, McDonald said the property owner has told the city doing so would not be cost-effective and they would prefer to pursue the rezoning to relax the setbacks for the living suite. It’s unlikely they would go ahead with adding the apartment on if they had to move the garage to do so.

Coun. Laura Cabott indicated she’d like to know more details on the cost of moving the garage, though administration noted the property owner hasn’t shared those details with the city.

McDonald also confirmed when questioned by councillors Jocelyn Curteanu and Steve Roddick that there are the required number of parking spaces (one parking space per two units) available for the four units that would be on the site and that the property owner is working with ATCO Electric Yukon on requirements of building near the power line behind the property.

First reading of the proposed rezoning will come forward May 11. If that is approved, a public hearing would be held June 15.

A report on the hearing would then come forward June 23 with second and third reading June 29.

Contact Stephanie Waddell at

Stephanie Waddell

About the Author: Stephanie Waddell

I joined Black Press in 2019 as a reporter for the Yukon News, becoming editor in February 2023.
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