A garage being built at 1306 Centennial St. on Oct. 15. City of Whitehorse staff are recommending council move forward with the rezoning of the lot to allow development of an apartment building. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)

Whitehorse city council contemplates zoning change for proposed Centennial Street property

Height limit proposed for Centennial Street property

City of Whitehorse staff are recommending council move forward with the rezoning of 1306 Centennial St. to allow for the development of an apartment building.

The rezoning would take the property from its single-residential zoning to a multi-residential zone. Under the current zoning the largest structure the property could have would be a triplex with the multi-residential zone allowing up to 11 units, though the developer is proposing nine.

A condition limiting the height to 13 metres rather than the 15 m limit otherwise in place for multi-residential properties would also be placed on the property if council approves the recommendation as proposed.

The recommendation was put forward by planning and sustainability services manager Mélodie Simard at Whitehorse city council’s Nov. 4 meeting in a five-page public hearing report on the rezoning.

The public hearing was held Oct. 15. There, five neighbourhood residents spoke out against the plans with the city also receiving two written submissions in opposition.

Delegates argued the proposal does not fit with the character of the neighbourhood largely made up of single detached, duplex and townhouse units in that area and that it could have a negative impact on neighbourhood safety, property values and parking. It was also suggested that water and sewer infrastructure may not be able to accommodate the proposed nine-unit building; the closest school is already at capacity; the development is too dense; a precedent could be set in allowing more multi-residential properties into the neighbourhood; and there’s four properties in Whistle Bend already zoned for multi-residential development up for sale.

A number of presenters also took issue with the construction of the garage already underway on the property, though developer Scott Darling told the city the current residential single zoning already allows for it to be built.

He emphasized if the rezoning doesn’t go ahead, the property will be redeveloped though the number of units would be reduced to meet the current residential single-detached zoning requirements. The maximum for that would be a triplex.

Darling said he wants the building to be part of and welcomed by the community and highlighted the need for housing overall throughout Whitehorse.

In her report, Simard addressed each concern brought up at the public hearing one-by-one.

She pointed out the city’s Official Community Plan (OCP) designates the area as mixed-use which could include multi-family developments and that the OCP supports redevelopment in the area.

“As such, it is likely there could be a change in neighbourhood character in future, regardless of approval of this amendment,” she said.

Simard also said there’s no evidence showing higher density developments lead to an increase in crime.

There’s also nothing to show that local water and sewer services would be impacted or that it will lower property values.

Rather, Simard said, in cases where the development is compatible with the neighbourhood, new construction has been found to lead to more investment in existing properties, thereby increasing the value and aesthetics of the neighbourhood.

Moving onto Whistle Bend, Simard said that while the new neighbourhood is the primary location for new development, the OCP also supports “a city-wide compact development pattern to ensure efficient use of existing services and infrastructure and that development is oriented towards transit and active transportation.”

Nearby services include the Super A store, Jack Hulland Elementary School and transit.

And while Jack Hulland is near capacity, the territory’s Department of Education has told the city it could accommodate some further enrolment before it reaches full capacity. It did not specify how many students could be enrolled before capacity is reached, but it was noted that enrolment and capacity vary year-to-year.

Simard pointed out the plans call for 18 parking spaces for the site (the required amount would be one parking spot per unit, plus two guests spots for the building).

She suggested city council could reduce the maximum density if desired.

She also spoke to the suggestion that the project would set a precedent, pointing out that any future projects would be considered on an individual basis.

Finally on the height limit, Simard acknowledged that “… when a taller building is introduced into a neighbourhood that is primarily older single family housing, there can be a reduction of privacy and an increase in shadowing impacts.”

She then told council Darling is reviewing the design of the roof to lower the building height to 13 m from the 15 m that would typically be permitted in multi-family residential zones.

Simard then put forward the recommendation that council move ahead with the final two readings of the zoning bylaw along with the change to 13 m for the height limit.

It will be another week before council votes on the second and third readings of the rezoning, but members put forward a number of concerns during council discussion around the development.

Coun. Laura Cabott confirmed that council could opt to include a clause limiting the development to nine units with Coun. Samson Hartland voicing his concerns about a major change in density and the impact that could have on traffic and parking. Coun. Dan Boyd also stressed it would be a major change in the zoning rather than simply an amendment.

Council will vote on second and third readings and any alterations to the bylaw on Nov. 12.

Contact Stephanie Waddell at stephanie.waddell@yukon-news.com

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