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Takhini North residents shocked by city’s new development plans

A flawed consultation system and the city’s tendency to manipulate numbers have left Takhini North residents with a bad taste in their mouth,…

A flawed consultation system and the city’s tendency to manipulate numbers have left Takhini North residents with a bad taste in their mouth, say community representatives.

Last week, council met to release two development plans for the subdivision, which is made up of Second World War-era homes.

The plans, which differed from one another only slightly, call for the addition of approximately 210 units to the current 41-duplex, 82-unit subdivision.

The plans call for a mixture of duplexes, multi-family homes and single-family houses. One plan calls for 20 per cent duplexes and the other for 40 per cent.

Residents were taken aback because the plans are much different than what the residents and the city came up with in their charrette process, said Mark O’Brien, president of the Takhini North Community Association.

The difference emerged because all of the plans were developed with the assumption that the broomball court, which towers in the centre of the development, was going to be removed.

Now that’s changed, said O’Brien.

“Both of these concepts are significantly different than what came out of the charrette, mainly as a result of broomball being maintained,” he said.

“There’re a number of issues we have with the process so far and that was one of the primary ones.

“The city was working on an assumption that they were going to be moved, and obviously we were following that assumption in our design process.”

Residents believed those plans were still in place until an hour before the Wednesday night meeting, he said.

That’s when they were presented with the two new plans and told they had two days to make a decision, said O’Brien.

“That changes the landscape of the design significantly and these new plans were only made available by e-mail maybe an hour before the meeting,” he said.

“We were pretty blindsided by those plans.

“I think people were pretty upset with the quick turnaround time.”

The process has since been extended until April 11 with a commitment to have smaller focus groups meet to try to hammer out some plans, he said.

Residents are still looking to pare down the number of units from 210 to something smaller and are still looking to resolve the longstanding plumbing problems buried beneath the existing neighbourhood.

Unlike Takhini East and Takhini West, Takhini North still had the original water and sewer infrastructure when the homes were sold by Public Works Canada.

Takhini East and West had new lots built and new water and sewer lines installed when the homes were sold in the mid-1990s.

When Public Works Canada sold Takhini North to a group of Whitehorse lawyers in 1999, the lots were sold “as is,” meaning the series-type water system, which connects the homes like Christmas lights — one fails, they all fail — remained, as did the aging sewer system.

Some of the main lines are past their useful life and some run beneath private property.

The city has been discussing the problem with the residents for more than a year, but the matter remains unresolved, and that’s a problem, said O’Brien.

And, the planning department is trying to work with residents on infrastructure reconstruction and new lot development, but it wants residents to defer discussion about the costs of water and sewer replacement to senior managers with the city.

“It wasn’t supposed to be discussed at the meeting, but obviously a few of the residents still feel it is impacting on the design and the numbers of infill.

“It’s kind of naive to separate the two issues.”

In the budget, officials state the reconstruction of the current neighbourhoods’ water and sewer lines includes all of the infrastructure leading to Range Road, where the system connects in the larger city network.

That’s not fair considering all the new houses will be using the same infrastructure, which would be required regardless of whether or not the existing neighbourhood’s services needed replacement, he said.

Takhini North residents feel they are being asked to bear costs that should be included in the new development’s budget.

 “We think that’s kind of unfair, it definitely plays with the perception of how beneficial the infill is and how expensive the replacement is,” says O’Brien.

“It doesn’t paint a real picture of what’s going on there.”

City planners are hoping to have a workable plan approved by council by the end of April so construction crews can begin work in the neighbourhood in the summer of 2009, said city planner Mike Ellis.

While the planning department will still work with residents, time is running out and consultation has to come to an end, he said.

“We’re getting to the point in the process where it’s hard to keep collecting input,” said Ellis.

“We’re starting to get to the point where we have to get on track and get a plan adopted.

“The more delays there are, the more expensive construction costs will come in at.”

The current plan has about 210 lots because that’s what is needed to make the plan feasible, he added.