Whistle Bend: to densify or not

City politicians are concerned Whistle Bend is going to pack residents too close together.

City politicians are concerned Whistle Bend is going to pack residents too close together.

Talk of zoning density dominated Monday’s meeting, after plans for the first two phases of the subdivision were presented by city planners Mike Gau and Kinden Kosack.

Politicians couldn’t seem to agree on whether high-density housing, an issue that was consistently brought up at public consultations, is something that should be incorporated into Whistle Bend.

City planners proposed single family lots should make up about 15 per cent of the total 640 units planned for the first phase of Whistle Bend.

The rest of the units are slated to be either duplex, multiple-family or mixed-use commercial lots.

“Single-family units make up 57 per cent of the total units in Whitehorse. Do you think it’s a good thing to go from 57 per cent down to 14 per cent or 15 per cent?” asked councillor Doug Graham.

But Kosack says this level of density is consistent with other new city subdivisions, such as Ingramand an expansion of Takhini North.

“The city’s sustainability plan shows that density is a good thing for cities,” said Kosack.

“Density decreases the amount of services needed to upkeep lots and decreases costs. More people using infrastructure is a good thing and so is more people using parks and commercial areas.”

But many of these multi-family units wouldn’t sell, said Graham.

“Are we going to force people to live on these small lots because there isn’t anything else available?” he said. “People will just move outside of the city limits so they don’t have to pay city taxes and can buy a big chunk of land and freeload while the rest of the city pays their taxes.”

Developers can apply to have the land rezoned if the land doesn’t sell, said Gau.

Townhouse and apartment demand is increasing because baby boomers want smaller houses after their children fly the coop, said Gau.

“It’s a trend we’re seeing across Canada.”

“Is this an effort at achieving sustainability or affordable housing?” asked councillor Dave Stockdale.

“Providing a range of housing provides a range of price points for purchasers,” said Kosack.

Whistle Bend has been designed this way following public consultations staged since 2006 and in accordance with the city’s sustainability plan, noted Kosack.

The multi-family lots had a champion in councillor Jeanine Myhre.

“It seems like there aren’t many options other than single-family homes here in Whitehorse and not everyone can afford these as an option.”

Politicians never discussed boosting densities in the downtown area.

Whistle Bend construction is scheduled to begin in March 2010. Phase one homes could be available as early as 2012, phase two homes in 2013.

Contact Vivian Belik at