The rezoning of 410 Cook Street could move forward March 22 despite opposition expressed during a public hearing held in February.
At Whitehorse city council’s March 15 meeting, city planner Sidharth Agarwal brought forward a public hearing report on the proposed zoning change along with a recommendation council move forward with second and third reading of the rezoning.
The five-page report highlighted the issues brought up in the eight submissions expressing opposition to the proposal as well as the four submissions stating support.
The plans, as proposed, would see a housing project featuring 16 micro-units built along with two commercial spaces. Developers are asking for the zoning change to reduce the required parking.
Under the proposal, the required residential parking spaces would change from eight (at one parking spot per two units) to seven (less than one space per two units), from two spaces for visitor parking (at a required one spot for every seven units) to none, and from one required loading space for 930 cubic meters of gross floor area to none.
Commercial parking would remain the same at one space with an option to pay cash-in-lieu of providing that space.
In his report, Agarwal noted those opposed to the zoning change argued the proposed parking would not meet the needs of future residents, would lead to more drivers parking on the street, road safety issues and could impact snow clearing. Concerns were also expressed over the potential lack of space available for landscaping, possible shadowing and expressed a need for changes to overall parking regulations.
Support for the rezoning expressed in four submissions was also highlighted in the report. Agarwal noted those in support cited the need for more affordable housing in the city.
Throughout the report, Agarwal highlighted a number of plans and documents that stress the need for housing in the city, while also noting it could provide options for residents who don’t own vehicles and noting there are options the city has to manage on-street parking.
It will be another week before council votes on whether to move forward with the final two readings of the bylaw, but parking and the future of the area was the focus of discussion among council following Agarwal’s presentation.
As Coun. Laura Cabott pointed out, it’s anticipated the area will see high-density development in the years to come.
“I think we need to be very careful at this stage,” she said.
Cabott also suggested that while in larger cities there may be a portion of the population that doesn’t own their own vehicles, in Whitehorse that percentage is much less. As she pointed out, to get anywhere outside city limits or if you want to go anywhere quickly, you need a vehicle and there are many residents who have their own vehicle as a means to access the nearby wilderness or to get out of town even if they choose to walk, bike or use transit to get around the city.
Coun. Steve Roddick, meanwhile, suggested it may be time to look at incentives for those who don’t take up parking spaces, such as charging a fee for on-site parking spots. He stressed though the city would have to take greater measures to deal with on-street parking as well.
Another issue that came up for Coun. Dan Boyd was the argument that the project may not be viable without the reduction in parking requirements.
He questioned whether the city has any means to test the viability of the project with current parking regulations.
As city planning manager Melodie Simard noted though, the city does not have a real estate branch that could look at those issues. She added that it has been well-documented that parking requirements can be a barrier to development in these types of projects.
Agarwal also noted that while the city doesn’t have a performance test to see if such a project would be viable, meetings are held with developers as they move through the city process.
“We work with developers to see what reasonably makes sense,” he said.
Council will vote on whether to move ahead with the final two readings of the bylaw next week.
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