As Whitehorse city council moves forward with a bylaw to rezone a Black Street property for an office building, council members are making it clear the rezoning is not a done deal.
Council voted to move the rezoning of 151 Black St. forward at its May 9 meeting, though, as a few members explained, they voted in favour mainly to move it to the public input portion of the process.
A two-storey building is proposed for the mixed-use waterfront-zoned site. Under the current zoning only a maximum of 50 per cent of the ground floor level can be occupied by an office. All developments in the zone must have, at minimum, two uses.
The owners have applied for the rezoning to allow for a full office building that would accommodate up to 10 staff along with meeting and training spaces for teachers.
Along with changing the zoning to allow for full office use, the rezoning would also reduce the glazing requirement on windows from 50 per cent to 40 per cent, and eliminate a height requirement for the windowsill.
While the proposal fits with the current Official Community Plan, the city’s downtown plan suggests offices be directed in other parts of the neighbourhood. The property sits on the edge of the waterfront zone with more conventional mixed-use zoned properties that allow for office use only nearby.
A unique zone
Mayor Laura Cabott acknowledged the site is close to other office buildings, but also pointed out the waterfront designation is unique.
“I realize that this parcel is right on the edge of the mixed-use waterfront, but, you know, this particular area I would say, it is a very special area,” she said. “It’s got a special designation because of the waterfront and many communities do [similar zoning specific to the waterfront]. Cities try to do interesting unique things around the waterfront.”
Cabott said she wouldn’t want to erode plans for the area and pointed out the downtown plan includes a connection with Black Street for cyclists and pedestrians.
At the same time, she said she hopes the public and neighbouring residents and businesses will let the city know their thoughts as it goes through the bylaw process. A public hearing on it is expected in June. Following the public hearing, a report will come forward to council ahead of the final two readings of the bylaw.
Coun. Dan Boyd echoed the mayor’s sentiments, stating while he’d like more information (such as what the plan is for windowsills), he’s prepared to start the process.
Other buildings in the area
Others focused on the presence of other office buildings nearby with Coun. Kirk Cameron highlighting two such structures right across the street.
“So my way of thinking [is] it’s not really incompatible, but at the same time it would be interesting to hear people’s perspective on what was contemplated when the 2017 study for the downtown was completed because I’m all for reimagining how we look at our downtown, generally,” he said.
Noting his thoughts align with Cameron’s comments, Coun. Ted Laking also pointed out the Black Street location is somewhat setback from the waterfront and the property is not being used.
“I think that if there are proposals to start utilizing this and tapping into the potential of this land, I think that is a good thing,” he said, adding he wasn’t aware of the concept for the area outlined in the downtown plan and will be looking at that.
“I think that these types of proposals are in line with future direction and what we need in the community in terms of densification and, sort of, beautifying the downtown,” he said.
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