A multi-unit building being constructed at the corner of Keewenaw and North Star Drive in Whitehorse on Sept. 3. City council approved a development incentive worth up to $500,000 over 10 years for the developer on Sept. 9. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

Whitehorse council green lights development incentive for 12-unit building

Coun. Steve Roddick expressed concerns over the building but ended up voting in favour

Whitehorse city council has approved a development incentive worth up to $500,000 over 10 years for a 12-unit apartment building under construction in Copper Ridge.

That’s despite concerns raised by Coun. Steve Roddick that the city could be incentivizing higher density developments in areas that will add to traffic.

The building, which will see 12 one-bedroom units at 51 Keewenaw Drive, is being built by Patrick McLarnon. The property was rezoned in 2018 for multi-residential development when McLarnon proposed building 10 townhouse units on the 3,600-square-metre property.

The rezoning went ahead despite opposition of neighbouring property owners, who argued the plans didn’t fit the character of the neighbourhood and pointed to the potential for parking and traffic problems.

It’s not clear why the plans have changed, but the multi-residential zoning allows for the apartment building and McLarnon has received a development permit with construction now underway.

The city’s development incentive policy — aimed at encouraging certain developments including rental housing — provides major development incentive grants of up to $500,000 over a maximum of 10 years. It’s not expected McLarnon would reach the full $500,000.

The annual amount a developer receives is based on the tax increases that come with improvements to the property from the development. The grant is then applied to the property tax bill for the lot.

At the council meeting Sept. 9, Roddick emphasized his mixed feelings about approving the incentive in this case, arguing there’s a critical need for rental units, but he also takes issue with adding density in an area that could lead to more traffic.

Google Maps show the closest transit stop at the intersection of North Star Drive and Keewenaw Drive, approximately 110 metres or a two-minute walk from 51 Keewenaw Drive.

Roddick said it’s important the city grows in a sustainable way.

He was also quick to note plans for the property have changed from what came forward during the rezoning with more units now planned.

“We’re dealing with a lot of unknowns here,” he said, questioning whether the city is legally bound to adhere to the incentive policy if the development does not seem to fit with the public interest.

“I’m really struggling with this,” he said.

Acting city manager Valerie Braga said the policy is applied across the board to any development that meets the criteria.

Coun. Laura Cabott argued the city should provide the incentive, that to not do so would be unfair to developers who have worked to ensure they meet the criteria for the incentive.

Roddick confirmed with city staff McLarnon would be required to keep the units as rentals for the 10-year duration of the incentive. He then voted with the rest of council in favour of the incentive, noting the need for more rental housing in the city.

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

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