It will be at least mid-February before the City of Whitehorse has a new development incentive policy in place.
Whitehorse city council members voted Jan. 27 to defer adopting the new policy following questions about how incentives would be applied to phased-in projects and concerns over the impact of higher density developments on parking.
The focus of the new policy is on densification as well as supportive and rental housing with different provisions of the policy focusing on each of those.
There would also be changes in how the grant is provided. The incentives for nearly all categories would now come through grants for a portion or all of the development cost charges (DCCs). That’s instead of the current system, which provides a tax grant annually for up to 10 years.
The exception would be the incentive for rental and supportive housing development, which would see approved projects receive up to $500,000 in reduced development cost charges and a 10-year tax grant for developing a minimum of four rental units operated for at least 10 years or a minimum of four supportive living units.
That left Coun. Dan Boyd questioning how the city would ensure multi-year phased-in developments are proceeding according to planned timelines and exactly who the city would collect any DCCs from should a rental property that was provided an incentive be converted into condos.
He also wondered how the city would administer the incentive for projects that are planned to be phased in over a number of years.
Mike Gau, the city’s director of development services, told council the proposed policy allows for phased-in projects with developers required to provide the city with a master plan ahead of time in order to receive the incentive.
He did note as well that officials could look further into how any incentives may be clawed back at a future date if the terms for the incentive aren’t met.
City manager Linda Rapp also said, when questioned about it by Coun. Steve Roddick, that any timeline requirements would be enforced as they are now, through regular monitoring.
Meanwhile, a number of other council members highlighted concerns around parking, an issue that also came up during discussion at an earlier meeting.
With a focus on encouraging density, there are provisions that would require developments under the Neighbourhood Density Development category to be built to at least 90 per cent of the maximum density to receive an incentive. Another category, the RCM2 Zone Development. would require developments to be built 50 per cent over the minimum density to receive the incentive.
Coun. Laura Cabott was vocal in her concerns over parking, questioning whether the city is moving too fast in promoting densification without plans on how to address parking that could end up on the street.
She noted that though a number of zones may require at least one parking stall per housing unit, many people have more than one vehicle.
Gau explained parking requirements are outlined in the zoning bylaw and council could look at that if members wanted to make any changes to parking regulations, adding that home-buyers can choose to purchase properties with parking to suit their vehicles.
Cabott replied by pointing out “there’s not a big choice” when it comes to buying properties right now in Whitehorse with many of the newer lots built for less parking. She said she appreciates the zoning bylaw is in place to deal with parking, but there could be issues encouraging developers to build for higher density without consider the implications for parking.
She questioned whether city officials had considered adding in communal parking locations where residents can park a second vehicle away from the housing development, something she said is done in Sweden. Gau said the city had not looked at that.
Meanwhile, Roddick described parking as a concern for him too, but added the city could address potential parking issues through more parking management techniques.
Highlighting the concerns throughout the discussion, Cabott proposed deferring the vote by two weeks after confirming with city manager Linda Rapp that the delay wouldn’t have a major impact on developments in the city. Rapp indicated it likely wouldn’t have an impact until the 2020 construction season gets underway.
“This policy impacts many people,” Cabott said in arguing council should take more time to consider the policy. “People are looking for housing, (and) need housing.”
The policy will come back to council Feb. 10.
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