Sitting before a packed room of concerned citizens, Whitehorse city council voted five-to-two at the March 11 regular council meeting in favour of moving a controversial Official Community Plan (OCP) amendment, which would allow the development of a gravel quarry on a parcel of land near the Whitehorse airport, to the next stage.
The parcel in question – C-30B – is a 12.2 hectare lot presently designated “residential” in the OCP, and is also part of Ta’an Kwäch’än Council (TKC) settlement land.
The Da Daghay Development Corporation (DDDC), the economic development arm of TKC, wants to develop a quarry on the lot and is asking the city to change its designation to “natural resource.” DDDC is also asking that a clause in the OCP which requires a 300-metre buffer between quarries and “residential” lots apply only to existing, developed residences in the area.
The parcel is entirely bordered by residentially-designated properties, including the old tank farm, which has been quarrying and selling gravel as part of a contaminant remediation agreement. That work is scheduled to end this year.
The closest existing residence is 330 m from the proposed site and is in Valleyview.
None of the undeveloped properties have set timelines for residential development, Mike Ellis, senior planner for the City of Whitehorse, noted at the Mar. 4 standing committees meeting.
Five delegates, including TKC Chief Kristina Kane and concerned citizens from Valleyview, addressed council before the March 11 vote. Kane stated that she would “like to clean up some misinformation” about the project.
It is not TKC’s intention or desire to run a quarry there “for 20 years,” she said. Rather, TKC would like to eventually develop the property, and to do so, it needs to bring the grade of the parcel down.
Kane also stated it was her wish that mayor and council consult directly with TKC chief and council on this matter.
The project is set to produce $350,000 in annual revenue for DDDC and create five jobs for TKC citizens.
Agreement on the project is not unanimous. TKC citizen John Bunbury spoke before council.
“I’m not actually all for this project,” he said, noting that TKC doesn’t have much land left in the city limits and it might be better used, in his opinion, to create housing for TKC citizens.
Other delegates, especially those living directly in Valleyview, raised concerns around pollution, water contamination and noise coming from the site, especially if it should operate at the same time as the tank farm remediation quarrying project.
“There’s no (air quality) monitoring program” slated for the site, resident Sylvia Binette told council. “It’s entirely complaint-based.”
The amended buffering zone being proposed is “absolutely unacceptable,” resident Paula Pawlovich told council, adding that there are just too many unknowns, including, “noise, dust, traffic and other pollution.”
During the discussion process prior to the vote, council expressed lengthy and numerous concerns about the project.
Coun. Laura Cabott said she felt the information that had been presented to council was inadequate, and that it needed more information on things like total size of the operations, a more-concrete business-economic plan and information on trails, pollution and other potential environmental impacts.
“It seems to me that what has been presented to council so far… makes it difficult to make an informed decision,” to vote with, she said.
Mike Gau, director of development services, said most site plans with that level of detail are done after the guarantee of OCP designation, as they represent “significant investment” by the proponent and usually are developed for the bylaw process.
Coun. Dan Boyd and Coun. Samson Hartland were both opposed to even allowing the project to move forward through first reading.
Boyd said he felt he needed to be “sensitive” to the “anxiety” that allowing the project to move forward through the public hearing and second vote process would cause the community. He was also concerned about the cost to the city and the public both in terms of money and time.
Hartland said while the city “need(s) TKC to be successful,” he had reservations about the site being surrounded by residential parcels. He noted that although the parcel is settlement land, it was known by the First Nation that there would be “some kind of restrictions” to development when it accepted it as part of its settlement package. He suggested that instead of developing that parcel, TKC swap the land out for something more in keeping with its needs, which would set a precedent for that form of resolution, he said.
Mayor Dan Curtis said this amendment was a “very, very big deal” for council to decide on.
He noted that in his seven years as mayor he had only ever seen one request like this not go through to second reading, and that was because council was aware of conflicts which would have prevented the development in the first place. Likewise, cost should not be a factor in the decision, Curtis said, as there are “frequent flyer” individuals in the community who “have cost administration up to $1 million.”
A “fair and equitable process” is necessary, he said.
The next step in the process is a public meeting, the date for which has not yet been set. It will go before council again for a second reading May 6.
Contact Lori Fox at firstname.lastname@example.org.