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Whitehorse residents sound off on housing-related amendments to zoning bylaw

Whitehorse residents addressed the bylaw changes at a city council public hearing this week
Whitehorse’s city council held a public hearing on housing-related zoning bylaw amendments on March 25. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)

A public hearing on housing-related amendments to Whitehorse’s zoning bylaw was held during the city council meeting on March 25.

The suggested zoning bylaw changes received their first reading on Feb. 26. According to a memo from the city administration to the mayor and council dated March 19, the amendments are intended to “allow for a wider range of opportunities for residential development.”

Among the suggested bylaw changes are permitting the building of four units per lot in all urban “single detached” zones, easing rules on site coverage and setbacks in some zones where additional units are provided, relaxing regulations on living and garden suites and relaxing some parking regulations.

Four people spoke before the council during the public hearing earlier this week. It was also announced that 21 written submissions had been filed—eight in support of the bylaw changes, six with concerns and seven opposed.

The speakers at the meeting raised several concerns, ranging from the potential consequences of higher-density development in existing neighbourhoods to the impact of reduced setbacks on birds.

The second delegate to speak at the hearing was a Porter Creek resident who highlighted the increased pressure high-density development can have on neighbourhoods. He noted that, unlike Whistle Bend and other new developments being built on a “clean canvas,” established neighbourhoods were potentially not designed to accommodate the increased vehicular and pedestrian traffic that comes with more residents.

“We worry about the increased capacity requirements of infrastructure such as roadways, drinking water, wastewater, waste collection, electricity and other local services. Even if some of these factors are considered in the city’s process—which is not well-known to us, this is still not planned development,” he said, adding that development planning involves consultation with nearby residents.

“Planning in established areas of the city must include the opportunity for residents of affected neighbourhoods to have a voice in the proposed changes. It seems to us that this proposed bylaw amendment will preclude city residents from that opportunity in many cases.”

Another delegate, who identified themselves as someone who’s lived in Whitehorse for “over half a century,” also spoke about the stress that increased density puts on city infrastructure. As an example, he highlighted the increased commute time from Riverdale to downtown due to traffic at certain times of the day.

One downtown Whitehorse resident lamented to the council the potential loss of birds in areas where setbacks are reduced and densification is intensified.

“I urge council to take a deep dive into the implications their decisions will have not only on the citizens of Whitehorse [and] their enjoyment of a thoughtfully built city, but also on the bird population and the creation of a vibrant, still nature-friendly downtown.”

When the speaker was asked by the council if she had research to back up her claims that higher-density housing would impact birds, she admitted she did not.

The second and third readings of the housing-related zoning bylaw amendments are scheduled for April 22.

Later in the meeting, Councillor Dan Boyd revisited the impacts of the proposed zoning bylaw changes suggesting it created additional uncertainty relating to a master plan for a proposed development in Copper Ridge that the city is also working on.

Mike Gau, the city’s director of development services, clarified that the multi-unit developments would still be subject to infrastructure capacity requirements. He added that the Copper Ridge plan has already received this information and that’s how the city arrived at the 103 units proposed in plan for the development

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Matthew Bossons

About the Author: Matthew Bossons

I grew up in a suburb of Vancouver and studied journalism there before moving to China in 2014 to work as a journalist and editor.
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