Whitehorse skyscrapers and urban farming?

Whitehorse may permit higher buildings and backyard chickens as early as next year. The two popular issues have hit the city's agenda again.

Whitehorse may permit higher buildings and backyard chickens as early as next year.

The two popular issues have hit the city’s agenda again.

With an online questionnaire, officials are opening the discussion to Whitehorse residents.

“There’s 12 big questions here, but we’re anticipating hundreds of changes to the bylaws,” said senior planner Mike Ellis.

The questionnaire and possible changes weren’t provoked by recent press about urban chicken coops and other issues, he said.

The year-long “zoning bylaw rewrite process” is a regular process conducted after a new Official Community Plan is approved.

In the spring, the city made seven “priority” changes before the construction season. Those changes included community gardens and greenhouses and new regulations on garden suites.

And after a proposal for a building six storeys high, but still under the regulated 20 metres, the city also changed its height restrictions.

Instead of the previous “four storeys to a maximum of 20 metres,” the city adjusted the legislation to simply a maximum of 20 metres.

But now, officials are suggesting the limit be pushed to 25 metres in the commercial district of the city (north of Jarvis Street).

“There’s very few single-detached houses in these areas,” said planning manager Mike Gau. “In the other areas of downtown there’s many old houses that are very low level in height and would have a much higher level of impact in them by a neighbouring, taller building. We don’t have that in the north end, we have big boxes; outlets that don’t currently have residential in them.”

As well, the lots in the commercial district are large enough to provide adequate parking, he said.

And there is still the potential for tall apartment developments, or buildings with commercial purposes on the main floor and residential space in the storeys above, which could help with the city’s affordable housing crunch, said planners, noting the “mixed commercial/residential” zone included in their suggestion between Jarvis and Ogilvie Streets and Second and Fourth Avenues.

But the proposed changes go beyond higher buildings and giving permission to have up to eight chickens (hens, no noisy roosters) in every urban coop.

The questionnaire also asks for citizens’ opinions on group homes, childcare centres and halfway houses in residential neighbourhoods.

There’s also questions on laneway houses, duplexes and taller homes in specific residential areas, denser housing in Old Town (from Wood to Ogilvie Streets between the clay cliffs and Sixth Avenue), development on the escarpment in the south end of town, and multiple-family developments in recreational areas, like the ski hill and golf courses.

The questionnaire is available at www.whitehorse.ca/zoning and will be running until November 15.

There will also be a public open house on October 27 from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Public Safety Building on the top of Two Mile Hill, with planners on hand to discuss these proposed changes to city bylaws.

Contact Roxanne Stasyszyn at


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