Whitehorse city staff wants council’s go-ahead to begin the next step of the Whistle Bend project, which involves approving the zoning for Phase 5 of development.
Phase 5 will take up 20 hectares, bordered by Ta’an Kwäch’än Council land on the east and green space to the north. When developed, the site will be home to approximately 575 people. The development will include 44 lots for single family homes or duplexes, 66 lots for townhouses, two lots for apartment buildings, one park site and one recreational or institutional lot for a total of 114 lots.
The design for Phase 5 has slight changes to the original design proposed in 2012, said Mike Ellis, acting manager of planning and sustainability, at the Sept. 18 standing committee meeting. This includes changes to reduce paving by removing single lanes and reconfiguring lots to “improve development potential.”
This development will also include a “green street,” he said, where single-family houses face “onto a landscaped green corridor with a walking path instead of a typical residential street.”
The development will also include commercial lots, he said. That’s something Coun. Betty Irwin said is missing in both Whistle Bend the Granger subdivision.
Development will come, Ellis said, as more people move into the area. The completed development will be comparable to “any other town of 8,000 people,” Ellis said, but it takes “enough people living nearby,” to attract those businesses.
“The great benefit of building at this scale and density is that you should be able to support a wide variety of commercial enterprises,” he said. “That’s the concept. It’s a walkable street filled with shops and commercial uses.”
Council listened attentively to Ellis’ presentation, but when it came time for questions, it wasn’t the zoning they grilled him about, but rather the overall effectiveness of the project.
“This is a really small development in the grand scheme of things,” said Coun. Dan Boyd. “This is barely a year’s supply of lots…. How are we going to meet future demand?”
“Phase 5 is what we’re talking about here, that’s not expected to be available for a few years … and Phase 4 won’t be available until next fall…. We’re still a few steps away from Phase 5.”
Ellis said that over the last few years, developers built 140-150 units of housing, a number that has “remained fairly steady.”
Council approved zoning for Phase 4 in August 2016. Those lots are expected to be on the market by Fall 2018, Ellis said. Phase 3 lots were supposed to be available by now, but have been delayed until spring 2018.
“What’s the hold up (on Phase 3)?” Coun. Rob Fendrick bluntly said.
Ellis said that the decision to delay was based on relations between the government and housing developers, who were unable to get started comfortably before winter and so the decision was made to delay release because “the general preference was to wait.”
Between Phase 3 and Phase 4, 900 housing units will be available for development.
“There’s no available land right now but there’s a lot coming,” Ellis said. “We are underserved … but we should be okay starting next year.”
Boyd flatly disagreed. As the economy picks up speed and mining recovers in the territory, he said, more workers will be looking for housing. Boyd said the city doesn’t have enough.
“I don’t believe what we’re doing will meet demand,” Boyd said. “We have a serious shortage of lots on the market and I would argue this problem isn’t going to go away.”
Coun. Roslyn Woodcock had her own concerns about the size of housing. She asked Ellis for a breakdown of housing sizes and types.
“I thought we were leaning more towards smaller, starter houses, so things would be a bit more affordable,” she said.
Ellis said he didn’t have a response or numbers available, but would look into it.
Several councillors wanted to know if trails going into Phase 5 would allow motorized vehicles. As the News previously reported, there’s been controversy over whether the city should let motorzied vehicles use existing trails.
“I’ll have no problem supporting this as it goes ahead,” said Boyd. “But it would be nice to see (the trail designation) dealt with up front.”
Acting city manager Linda Rapp would said discussion about trail use was “underway.”
Council will vote on first reading at the Sept. 25 regular council meeting. A public hearing on the issue will take place Oct. 23, pending approval of first reading.
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