Zoning could soon be in place for two projects that could add at least 49 new homes in Whitehorse.
City of Whitehorse administration is recommending city council move the two proposed zoning changes — one in Porter Creek and one in Whistle Bend — forward to second and third reading following Oct. 11 public hearings on each. Public hearing reports were presented at council’s Nov. 7 meeting.
The Ta’an Kwäch’än Council (TKC) is proposing the rezonings to allow housing on its settlement land.
The largest site is a 2.1-hectare parcel on Birch Street in Porter Creek, which would see the development of 25 single family lots. The zoning would also include a provision to add mobile homes to the list of primary buildings to the lots. The site is part of a larger 4.35-hectare piece of settlement land with the remainder designated as future development.
Meanwhile, the other site up for rezoning is a one-hectare parcel on Witch Hazel Drive in Whistle Bend. It’s proposed the site be rezoned as comprehensive residential townhouse with the First Nation planning to add 24 townhouses. It is within a 20-hectare piece of settlement land, also designated as future development.
It was the Birch Street proposal that drew the most feedback during the public hearing with one written submission and two residents speaking out against the plan, while TKC Chief Amanda Leas and TKC land use planning coordinator Natalie Leclerc also provided details on the proposal in a presentation to council.
Those opposed to the plans highlighted concerns around traffic; road design and improvements being planned by the Yukon government nearby; crime and safety; the impact to neighbouring property values; neighbourhood improvements; as well as opposition to having rental properties and mobile homes on the site.
As city planner Mathieu Marois pointed out in a report to council, traffic considerations would be addressed during the detailed design phase of the project and if the First Nation’s plans move ahead prior to the territory’s planned improvements to upgrade the access to Birch Street at 15th Avenue (with the current 17th Avenue access to be closed off), the First Nation will be required to extend Birch Street to current city standards to provide access to the development.
Any concerns about the Yukon government’s plans should be raised with the territorial government through that process as the rezoning is not impacted by the territory’s plans, he said.
Speaking to crime and safety, Marois pointed out in his report: “There is no reason to believe that the proposed development would cause more crime than any other residential development in the city and is not considered to relate to this application to rezone the subject site.”
Similarly, Marois said property values will not be impacted to any greater degree than other developments. He pointed out the site is designated as residential-urban in the Official Community Plan (OCP) and the TKC has the right to manage its settlement land within OCP and zoning designations.
In addressing questions about improvements to the neighbourhood, Leas and Leclerc outlined plans for a family-friendly residential development that could include a playground in future phases. The Yukon government is also proposing an accessible trail along Birch Street as part of its plans for road improvements.
Speaking to the opposition expressed over rental properties, it was pointed out the First Nation cannot sell its land and therefore the land will be leased, though the zoning bylaw doesn’t consider differences between rental and owned properties and thus the issue is not seen as relevant to a zoning amendment.
On allowing for mobile homes, the First Nation said it applied to have mobile homes added as a use so the option is available; though it doesn’t intend to place a mobile home on each site. The zoning will also allow for single detached, duplex and triplex housing.
“New residential units across the housing continuum are needed in the city to address current and anticipated demand,” Marois said. “Additionally, council listed housing and development as a strategic priority for 2022 to 2024. Supporting TKC in their land development aspirations would therefore align with this strategic priority.”
Coun. Michelle Friesen took issue with the comments made at the public hearing around crime and safety as well as the potential impacts to property values, arguing they “contribute to a harmful narrative and bias towards Indigenous peoples.”
She argued that regardless of whether the homes are rented or available through sale, Indigenous people have a long history of respect and connection to the land and that the TKC’s plans will be a benefit to the city, not only in providing homes but also through improved trails and the potential addition of a playground in the future.
“It will also increase the overall sense of community and quality of life for all those who live in this development and surrounding area,” she said, adding that the TKC has the right to manage its settlement land.
She also thanked administration for “shutting down” the narratives that were outlined in the public hearing report.
Coun. Kirk Cameron stated his agreement with Friesen, commenting “there was a certain edge to a lot of the conversation that happened that certainly makes me uncomfortable.”
While he questioned whether council wanted to make any changes to the recommendation to reflect the concerns around the narrative, Friesen pointed out council’s comments on it would be reflected in the minutes of the council meeting and she favoured moving forward with the recommendation at the next council meeting.
Meanwhile, Coun. Dan Boyd asked city staff to get clarity before the vote on whether the First Nation might want to add modular homes as well to the list of homes that could be built on the lots, pointing out that mobile and modular homes are two different types of factory built houses that the First Nation may be looking at having as options.
After presenting his report, Marois recommended council move the bylaw forward to second and third reading.
Meanwhile, on the proposed rezoning in Whistle Bend, Marois said the city received two written submissions: one expressing opposition to the plans and the other highlighting concerns about it.
Among the issues raised were that priority will be given to TKC citizens; the possibility of greater traffic congestion in Whistle Bend; the impact to trails and green space; potential for the development to pollute the Yukon River; and that the number of townhouses could pose a fire hazard.
Marois pointed out that while the First Nation is looking to provide its citizens with housing as a priority, TKC officials have also said they may open up availability to others once the First Nation’s needs are met.
It was also pointed out that traffic in Whistle Bend is being looked at as part of the work on the city’s Transportation Master Plan, a document that will aim to address long-term transportation issues in the city.
The site is also designated as residential-urban in the OCP with residential development anticipated.
“Notwithstanding this, the proposed development will result in 24 additional units and is not anticipated to result in significant increases to traffic within the overall Whistle Bend neighbourhood.”
Coun. Ted Laking also brought up the issue of traffic in the neighbourhood, noting that while there’s no reason to hold up housing, he hopes that when the city is planning it is anticipating more vehicles on the road due to a number of developments being built in the neighbourhood.
“I think that as we go forward, particularly in with our planning, through snow removal, we need to make sure that these roads are continuing to remain passable because there’s going to be significantly more traffic on here than the roads were designed for,” he said.
Any trails through the area are informal and were not authorized by the First Nation, which is therefore, not obligated to maintain access to them.
Marois also pointed out that the area north of the site is also TKC settlement land and expected to be designated as green space.
Speaking to the risks of river pollution and fire, Marois pointed out the development is more than 600 metres from the river — with other areas of the neighbourhood closer to the river — and green space proposed between the development and waterway would help filter any contaminant runoffs. Fire risks are managed by the National Building Code and National Fire Code.
“The final design of the proposed development will be refined through detailed engineering and will be required to meet all fire protection standards,” he said. “It is noted that the proposed development is similar to other townhouse developments already existing in Whistle Bend, such as along Olive May Way. The development will need to comply with the requirements of the [residential comprehensive townhouse] zone, including setbacks and maximum site coverages, just as any other development.”
With that, Marois recommended council move forward to second and third reading of the rezoning bylaw.
Council will vote on the two rezoning bylaws Nov. 14.
Contact Stephanie Waddell at firstname.lastname@example.org