Whitehorse city councillor Rob Fendrick said he “wondered what the logic was” in changing land zoned for park use into country residential. (Joel Krahn/ Yukon News)

Whitehorse council considers next step in infill process

Rezoning would be required for seven of 10 potential infill areas

City staff asked council to consider a bylaw to allow the rezoning of several parcels of land for proposed infill lots at the Sept. 18 standing committees meeting.

The rezoning is the next step in developing the lots, which were first proposed in May of this year. City staff initially looked at 13 potential areas spread out across city limits and identified 10 as viable for development. Of those 10 areas, seven would need rezoning in order to be developed, acting manager of planning and sustainability Mike Ellis told council.

The rezoning would involve changing three areas which are currently zoned as greenbelts, one zoned as environmental protection, two zoned as parks and recreation, and one area zoned for for future planning to country residential zoning in the Mary Lake, Cowley Creek, Whitehorse Copper, and Hidden Valley subdivisions.

One lot currently zoned as neighborhood commercial would need to be rezoned to restricted residential in Arkell.

The remaining three proposed areas — one on Wann Road, one on Sandpiper Drive and one on Wilson Drive — would not need rezoning to be developed, Ellis said.

“While the development of country residential lots may not seem sustainable, it adds more tax revenue along existing roads, which helps increase revenue for maintenance costs,” Ellis said in his presentation to council. “Additionally, adding units to existing neighborhoods, where there is already a significant impact … prolongs the need to move to larger undisturbed wilderness area.

“In regards to affordability, adding housing of any type, including country residential lots, allows the public an opportunity to move through the housing spectrum. When some residents have the opportunity to move to higher end housing, it makes existing or lower cost housing available for others.”

Despite this enthusiastic support from staff for country residential lots, some councillors were still left with raised eyebrows, particularly over the issue of changing environmental protection zones and parks into lots.

Coun. Samson Hartland wanted to know if there was a precedent for changing the zoning of environmental protection areas for this purpose.

“Yes, there have been times when environmental protection zones have been changed for development,” Ellis said.

“In any given example, sometimes, when we examine the land set aside, it no longer meets the requirement for environmental protection.”

Infill developments such as this one are not subject to approval from the Yukon Environmental and Socio-Economic Assessment Board, Ellis said.

Of particular concern was the proposed country residential development in Hidden Valley. Council recently approved the private development of lots which are essentially adjacent to the area it is proposing to create infill in.

“So I think to myself, this is 11 new lots going in that area — do we have hydrological data to support (the extra) development?” said Hartland.

“The reality is that there are now 11 proposed lots going in there, not just five or six.”

Kinden Kosick, city planner, said in a separate interview on the subject that they would be looking at the data and consulting their hydrological experts, but they wouldn’t be doing a completely new assessment of the area.

“We knew there was potential for (the private lots) when we first started this process and put (the infill lots) on the table… it’s unlikely we will commission a full new report,” he said.

“If (the experts) say there is a significant potential for impact then we will revisit what we are doing…. I don’t expect the six extra lots to make an impact but it’s worth looking at.”

As the News has previously reported, concerns over whether or not infill lots would put increased strain on septic systems and water tables in country residential areas have been expressed as concerns by residents already living in some of the affected subdivisions.

Council doesn’t have to approve all of the proposed infill sites, but can pick and choose, Kosick said.

“They can choose to strike any of (the proposed sites) as they see fit,” he said.

Coun. Rob Fendrick said he “wondered what the logic was” in changing land zoned for park use into country residential.

Ellis said there was already a playground on the site, and the area that had been divided off for potential development had “no additional development plan… not to say that it doesn’t have recreational use or value.”

Coun. Dan Boyd wanted to know if there was a formula for how much green space should be allotted for in a given neighbourhood. Ellis replied that 10 per cent was typically viewed as a minimum in Southern municipalities and that Whitehorse typically provides “way more than that.”

“We exceed (the recognized standard for green space),” he said. “I can’t say there is another accepted number that I know of.”

“It’s an ongoing development pattern of our neighbourhoods that forested areas are integrated into development and (this) is found in almost every single neighborhood.”

Council will bring the bylaw to first reading at the Sept.25 regular council meeting. If approved, it will go to a public hearing Oct. 23. Council will receive a report based on the public input and data on Nov.6, with a final reading of the bylaw slated for Nov. 14.

“I look forward to the public hearing and what the stakeholders have to say,” said Mayor Dan Curtis.

Contact Lori Fox at lori.fox@yukon-news.com

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